Our last post on this topic was Florida’s Theocratic Constitutional Amendment, #4. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:
After some amendments, a joint resolution was adopted by a three-fifths vote of each house of the Florida legislature. It is now a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution which will be on the ballot for the 06 November 2012, general election. Sixty percent voter approval is required for adoption. If adopted by the voters, the amendment will take effect on January 4, 2013.
The proposed amendment would remove language from the state Constitution that prohibits state funding of religious organizations. That language (which is found in 37 state constitutions) is now the last sentence of Article I, Section 3 of the current Florida Constitution. It currently says:
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.
The new amendment to the Constitution removes what we quoted above and replaces it with this:
An individual may not be barred from participating in any public program because that individual has freely chosen to use his or her program benefits at a religious provider.
That language is somewhat less theocratic and far more ambiguous than the original House version, but that’s not important. The important thing is what the new provision replaces. Removing the current restriction on state funding could be catastrophic — for those who think churches shouldn’t be forcibly subsidized by taxpayers.
Historical information going back to the Grant administration can be found in the House’s Staff Analysis for the Judiciary Committee dated 15 April. It’s a very informative 7-page pdf file.
There hasn’t been much written about this in the Florida press, but that may soon change. In the Florida Independent (“a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news site, providing daily original investigative reporting and analysis of state and local issues”), we read ACLU: Legislators ‘misled’ public about repeal of Florida’s ban on ‘taxpayer-funded religion’. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The American Civil Liberties Union just released a report arguing that Florida legislators’ rationale for a constitutional amendment that would repeal Florida’s ban on taxpayer funds going to religious institutions is false.
We often disagree with the ACLU, but not this time. Let’s read on:
According to the ACLU of Florida, all claims of a “link between anti-Catholic bias and Florida’s 125-year-old constitutional ban on taxpayer funding of religious groups and activities” is false. The group says that this “myth” is being used “to justify repeal of Florida’s long-standing constitutional separation of church and state.”
We agree. From the start of this thing, we’ve seen it as a blatant attempt to fund churches with tax revenue, and we’ve had visions of church lobbyists lined up at the capitol to grab their share of the loot, with the most politically powerful denominations grabbing the most — at the expense of taxpayers. The article continues:
According to the ACLU’s report, “there is simply no evidence showing that the Florida no-aid provision was inspired by or modeled after the federal Blaine Amendment. Moreover, these claims grossly mis-characterize the alleged anti-Catholic roots of the Blaine Amendment.”
In the group’s press release, Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU, accuses state lawmakers of “shamefully stoking fears of religious discrimination and provoking religious divisions in order to gain access to taxpayer dollars.”
“We understand why those who support taxpayer funding of mosques, synagogues and churches want to fabricate the story of historical bias, but it’s a deception designed only to get government to fund religious organizations,” Simon says in the release. “The Florida legislators and others who made these claims either didn’t know the truth or ignored it.”
That’s pretty clear. Here’s more:
Currently, the ballot summary [link omitted] that citizens will see before voting for the amendment reads: “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.”
And that’s rather misleading. The article ends with this:
Groups have less than three weeks to challenge the language of the ballot measure.
So we may see some ACLU litigation to challenge the way the amendment is described on the ballot. If the amendment passes, our Florida readers can expect to be paying church taxes. Won’t that be grand? Now we have something to worry about in addition to creationism in state schools.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.