Friday, October 26, 2007

Suit Challenges New York's Charter Schools Act and Blaine Amendment

The Gotham Legal Foundation announced yesterday that it has filed suit in federal district court in Manhattan challenging a provision in New York's Charter Schools Act that prohibits the state's issuance of a charter to any school "that would be wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine would be taught." That prohibition is required by provisions in the New York Constitution (Art. XI, Sec. 3). New York and other states adopted this kind of constitutional prohibition-- known as the Blaine Amendment-- in the late 19th century to prohibit public funding of Catholic schools.

The suit just filed was brought on behalf of the New Horizon Church Ministry that wishes to submit a charter application. The complaint in New Horizon Church Ministry v. Spitzer, (full text) claims that the Charter Schools Act and the state's Blaine Amendment violate federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection, free exercise of religion and free speech.Gotham Legal Foundation has posted online a series of questions and answers about the case.