Amendment weakening church-state separation inches closer to Florida ballot

04/13/10 Seán Kinane
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Today the state House and Senate moved a step closer to including an amendment to November’s ballot to repeal a ban on state funds to religious institutions.

House and Senate committees approved the proposed state constitutional amendment. Republican Rep. Kevin Ambler from Tampa supports it.

We recognize that government is not the sole provider, and certainly not the least expensive provider of many of the services that our society has come to expect, and offers a variety of people for a variety of reasons. And what we have found is that there are wonderful public-private partnerships with faith-based prisons, faith-based outreach programs, mental health centers, and so forth, that have made their programs and their services available to those that want to seek them out, by their free choice.

But Rep. Adam Fetterman, a Democrat from Port St. Lucie, voted against the proposed amendment because, he says, it isn’t just about protecting the rights of religious minorities.

This bill is about creating more jobs in the religious sector, because I can’t figure out any other purpose behind it—why we are permitting the expenditure of government funds to aid religious institutions and entities. And recognize this, too: This will—and I couldn’t have said it better than Mr. Templin, but—this bill will not only pit religious institution against religious institution for the competition for funding; it will require that governments make decisions as to which entities will receive funding, and which will not.

Rich Templin, the president of the Florida AFL-CIO says the intent of the Florida Constitution to protect churches from the state should not be changed.

And when you monkey around with allowing the state and funding to get involved in matters of faith and matters of churches, that’s the risk that you run. Now, we’ve heard a lot about all these programs that are going to be shut down if we don’t do this. These challenges only occur when there’s proselytizing going on in those organizations. That’s critical. Now, we all know what this is about: This is about vouchers. We’ve got former governor Bush’s people here, watching over this process; that’s the issue at hand. In this session, the constitution of the state of Florida has become a political football. And we strongly urge you to stop it at this point.

In 2008 the Florida Supreme Court removed a school voucher proposal from the ballot. The Court did not rule on whether it violated the state constitution’s prohibition on using public money for churches.

But if this new amendment becomes part of the state constitution, it could make it easier for private religious schools to receive tuition vouchers from the state.

Rep. Kevin Ambler

Rep. Adam Fetterman

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MORE separation!

When will it end? We already have preachers giving political sermons from their (tax-exempt) pulpits, seemingly trying to frighten their sheep into violence against health care providers and politicians, and Jeb[!] pushes this teacher pay bill (s.b.#6) to back-door the voucher system for the church schools again. (And I bet you hoped you had smelled the last of him, eh? Mmm, bulls**t and old money.) Hellfire and brimstone always sells. We should NOT be giving these Chicken Littles any money. At least not until we can trust them not to molest our children, lie about climate change, or bash people who live differently (and other hate crimes).