Florida’s Theocratic Constitutional Amendment

We recently posted Florida Legislature: Creationism & Theocracy Too. That was about some school prayer legislation being considered by the Florida legislature. That bill is in addition to Florida’s First Creationism Bill for 2011, introduced by state Senator Stephen Wise. But if you thought the pot was already boiling in Florida, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Today we have more information about Florida’s flirtation with theocracy. It’s in the Florida Baptist Witness, which is no longer the source of creationist news that it used to be in the heady days of Ronda Storms’ crusade for creationism in Florida back in 2008 (see Florida’s Axis of Creationism), but it’s still a valuable source of information. There we read Bunkley ‘encouraged’ as Legislature approaches mid-point of session.

Who is Bunkley? It’s Bill Bunkley, the Florida Baptist Convention’s legislative consultant (i.e., he’s their lobbyist). Why does a religious denomination need a lobbyist? Good question. Anyway, let’s see what we can learn in the Florida Baptist Witness. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

As the Legislature approaches the mid-way point of its annual 60-day legislative session with competing budget plans drawing most of the attention, pro-family legislation is advancing in both chambers, while gambling expansion measures appear to be stalled.

Ah, “pro-family” legislation is advancing. We’ve found that term to be code for creationism and theocracy. To keep this somewhat on topic, we won’t discuss the anti-abortion and anti-gambling legislation that Bunkley and his client favor. We’re going to skip to something far more important — the part about repealing the Blaine Amendment. Here it comes:

The House Civil Justice Committee on March 29 approved a constitutional amendment, HJR 1471, sponsored by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, that would remove language from the Constitution that prohibits state funding to religious organizations.

What? The committee approved a constitutional amendment to allow state funding of religious organizations? Can that be possible? Is this happening in Florida, or in Iran?

Here’s Scott Plakon’s page at the legislature’s website. And this is a link to information about House Joint Resolution 1471 – Religious Freedom. You can read the amendment’s text here (5-page pdf file).

It mentions “Florida’s Blaine Amendment language, the last sentence of Article I, Section 3, of the current State Constitution, was originally adopted in 1885.” What’s that all about? You can read that portion of the state constitution, which has been part of the fundamental law of Florida for over 125 years, right here: Florida Constitution. We’ll save you the trouble of clicking to it, and we’ll also put the last sentence of Section 3 in bold — it’s that troublesome Blaine Amendment:

Article I, Section 3. Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

That’s horrible! It denies Florida taxpayers the joy of being forced to support politically powerful churches. We can certainly understand why that needs to be changed. The preamble to Plakon’s proposed amendment says:

A joint resolution proposing an amendment to Section 3 of Article I of the State Constitution to eradicate remnants of anti-religious bigotry from the State Constitution and to end exclusionary funding practices that discriminate on the basis of religious belief or identity.

Yes, dear reader, that nasty wall of separation between church and state is “anti-religious bigotry.” All clear now? But that’s just the preamble. Wait until you read the operative text of the amendment that Plakon is proposing. Most of his resolution is a long list of “Whereas” clauses. This is the actual text of the proposed amendment, with existing (Blaine) language to be deleted shown in blue, and the new (Plakon) language in red:

SECTION 3. Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. [Plakon’s new language:] No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief. [The Blaine amendment to be deleted:] No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

To put it bluntly, Plakon’s proposed amendment allows churches to raid the state treasury. This, dear reader, is considerably more important than some stupid creationism bill — but it’s all part of what looks like a tsunami of theocratic legislation. Let’s read on in the Witness:

The removal of the so-called “Blaine Amendment” language comes as conservatives worry that some faith-based charities might be deemed ineligible for state money, or that religious schools might be barred from getting voucher money.

Oh, it’s all about charities and schools. But Plakon’s proposed amendment doesn’t contain that limitation, does it?

Bunkley also talks about the school prayer bill that we’ve written about before, but we won’t bother with that. The big news — really big — is this proposed constitutional amendment. Hey Florida: Wake up!

Update: See Florida’s Theocratic Constitutional Amendment, #2.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Florida’s Theocratic Constitutional Amendment

  1. What these theocrats need to understand is that if their religion is so weak as to need the support of the government to sustain it, it deserves to cease to exist.

  2. These near-sighted right wing-nuts don’t seem to realize that if the constitutional amendment passes, it won’t only be “their” church that can get money from the state, but any church, synagogue, and mosque could receive funds. Even worse for them, the Church of Darwin and the Church of Atheists could be funded since they are fond of saying that Darwinism is a religion and so is Atheism.

  3. Biokid says: “These near-sighted right wing-nuts …”

    They’ve come a long way since they were a minor sect and rejoiced in receiving Jefferson’s Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, which was in response to their respectfully timid letter expressing concerns for their freedom. Now that they’re a politically influential sect, they seem to have changed their minds.

  4. I’d give about six seconds after signing before a dozen suits are filed in a federal court.

    On the other hand, if they can successfully defend it in court, then I’ll open up a Pagan church in Florida and demand state funding equivalent to every other religious organization and if I don’t get it, then I’ll sue and use the previous court case as precedent.

    What is with these guys? I mean, do they really think it’s their job to save us (in the literal, figurative, and religious meanings of the word)?

    SC, have you written these guys and just asked, “Why are you doing this?”

  5. ogremkv asks:

    SC, have you written these guys and just asked, “Why are you doing this?”

    No need. I already know why. They’re on a mission.

  6. Isnt this just empty posturing though – the theo and creo-nuts just wasting legislative time and effort on stuff that can never be enforced without a challenge sure to defeat it. Dog whistles to the idiots who support them.

    See I thought that the US Constitution had that Supremacy Clause that says it trumps any shabby state constitution. Presumably inserted for just such cases as these and the other theo-nut madness????

    If not kiss your freedom lovin asses bye bye and prepare thyelves for Iran Mk2 – Jeezusistan.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    @Sandman: See I thought that the US Constitution had that Supremacy Clause that says it trumps any shabby state constitution. Presumably inserted for just such cases as these and the other theo-nut madness????

    No, because when the Constitution was adopted, individual states had established churches, just like the United Kingdom does today, and they kept them for decades. The Constitution is a document that describes and limits the powers of the national government, a concept which you’ve already explained makes no sense whatever to you. The state constitutions are not, under our laws, “shabby” documents to be swept aside by the august hands of our betters in Washington, D.C. The states are not administrative units, the states are sovereign entities in their own right, who have given up some powers to the national government but retained others. That’s the whole point of a federal system. The states have their own criminal codes and legal systems for a reason; what’s appropriate for New York might not be for Wyoming or California.

    If not kiss your freedom lovin asses bye bye and prepare thyelves for Iran Mk2 – Jeezusistan.

    sez the guy from a country with a state church and a hereditary monarchy. Yes, I know you have human rights in the UK–which undercuts your whole thesis, doesn’t it? Maybe you should actually spent some time in the United States instead of relying on caricatures and stereotypes.