A recent column by Michael McShane ("The Supreme Court can put a nail in the anti-Catholic coffin," April 13), on the Trinity Lutheran Church case before the U.S. Supreme Court is based on a serious historical error. McShane claims Missouri's constitutional clause prohibiting state money supporting religious schools and houses of worship is a "Blaine amendment." However, Missouri's prohibition actually predates Blaine. By the time Blaine first proposed his amendment in December of 1875, Missouri's 1875 constitutional convention had already met in May and June of that year. Additionally, earlier constitutional clauses previously made similar church-state declarations, like an 1870 amendment barring support of religious schools. Even Missouri's first constitution in 1820 included a clause declaring no one would be compelled to support a place of worship. Unless state legislators were much different back then, I doubt they were able to predict the future to preemptively adopt a "Blaine amendment." Opponents of church-state separation falsely frame Missouri's constitutional protection of religious liberty as a "Blaine amendment" in an attempt to malign the motives of such separation as supposedly anti-Catholic. In addition to the historical error, that is also an interpretation error. Blaine, whose mother was Catholic, did not write a bill preventing government support of Catholic schools and churches. His bill — like Missouri's previous constitutional clauses — prevented the use of public funds for any religious school or house of worship. That is why the case of this supposedly "anti-Catholic" constitutional clause involves not a Catholic church but a Lutheran one. Religious freedom protections in our nation emerged in part as a response to states forcing members of minority faiths to pay taxes to benefit larger faith communities — just as McShane now wants us to do. Let us not return to that discriminatory model!
As a Baptist minister, I support separation of church and state because it is good for both!