WATCH: Group of religious schools in SC announce new federal lawsuit

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — A group of religious school and independent colleges in South Carolina are announced a federal lawsuit during a news conference Wednesday.

The lawsuit is brought by the Bishop of Charleston, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, and South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCIC). The Bishop leads 33 K-12 schools throughout the state.

Many schools across south carolina have received millions in funding throughout the pandemic. However, there are some schools, that by state law cannot receive that funding. This lawsuit hopes to strike down the an amendment in the state constitution that is causing the problem.

It’s been in South Carolina’s constitution since 1895.

“Tillman was a racist and bigot and he was a champion of the Blaine Amendment,” Daniel Suhr, senior attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, said.

Now, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is filing a federal lawsuit to remove the Blaine Amendment, which limits access to federal funding for some schools.

“These religious and independent schools aren’t able to access the same educational resources that are available to all of our other schools,” Suhr said.

He said the funding has never been more crucial than throughout the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of money that the government has made available at the federal level to help schools and universities,” Suhr said.

Funds that could help schools like St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville.

“We want to change history, we want to go ahead and strike this amendment and do what’s right for them,” Mary Margaret Martin, the principal at St. Anthony of Padua, said.

Those bringing the lawsuit say the amendment was put in place to deny catholics and recently freed slaves access to good education.

“The majority of our students are African American and the school was actually founded to be an African American school,” Martin said.

She says it isn’t fair to her students.

“Having a great education, a safe environment, one to one teaching instruction is very important,” Martin said.

Suhr says the best way to accomplish this is to strike down the Blaine Amendment.

“Until we deal with this Blaine Amendment, until it’s either amended out of the state constitution, or much more immediately a federal court strikes it down, we’re going to continue to have this discrimination,” Suhr said.

Governor Henry McMaster’s Communications Director Brian Symmes sent 7News the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

Governor McMaster believes that private, parochial and independent schools provide many working or low-income parents the option to choose the type of education environment and instruction that best suits their child’s unique needs. Even in the best of economies, many of these parents struggle to scrape together enough money to pay their child’s tuition.

Nobody fought the SAFE grants lawsuit more vigorously than the governor did, and he still believes it was incorrectly decided. Every step of the way, the governor warned that the lawsuit could have far-reaching consequences and unnecessarily prevent these schools and parents from accessing emergency federal funds.

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