Next week, Florida vot­ers will decide on whether to remove lan­guage in the Florida State Con­sti­tu­tion that bars reli­gious or sec­tar­ian insti­tu­tions from receiv­ing state money. Cur­rently reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions are able to use state money for char­i­ta­ble pur­poses but are barred from using it to spread reli­gious messages.Florida Amendment 8 - Trojan Horse

The bal­lot mea­sure, termed a “reli­gious free­dom” amend­ment by the state leg­is­la­ture, has caused con­cern among pub­lic edu­ca­tors because of fears could open the door for a voucher sys­tem that would allow pub­lic money to go to reli­gious schools.  The Florida Supreme Court over­turned school vouch­ers in 2006 but the amend­ment could open the door to vouch­ers in the future.

When it comes to pub­lic vouch­ers, pub­lic edu­ca­tors are con­cerned about decreased fund­ing and some reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions are con­cerned about increased reg­u­la­tion of their cur­ricu­lum by the state. State money to reli­gious insti­tu­tions does not come with­out strings attached, and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that value their auton­omy should care­fully con­sider the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of accept­ing state funds.

There are basic argu­ments that non-believers should not be forced to sup­port reli­gious mes­sages they dis­agree with, but the stronger argu­ment in my view comes from the reli­gious side where con­ser­v­a­tives should main­tain a healthy fear of attempts of gov­ern­ment attempts to reg­u­late their hir­ing prac­tices and speech which often comes attached to finan­cial arrangements.

For instance, tax-exempt sta­tus pre­cludes pas­tors from endors­ing polit­i­cal can­di­dates. It is not incon­ceiv­able that accep­tance of state money could be an avenue for lim­i­ta­tion of speech on a vari­ety of moral issues such as same-sex mar­riage in schools and churches. It is likely that orga­ni­za­tions that begin to accept this money will by neces­sity become more sec­u­lar over time as state laws against reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion are applied through the pres­sures of pol­icy, leg­is­la­tion, and litigation.

Florida’s Amend­ment 8 is being pro­moted under a guise of “reli­gious free­dom,” but accept­ing state funds will sub­ject reli­gious insti­tu­tions to increased reg­u­la­tion that would actu­ally restrict free speech.

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For more infor­ma­tion on Florida Amend­ment 8, includ­ing the text of the amend­ment and argu­ments for and against Amend­ment 8, visit CollinsCen​ter​.org.

 
 

4 Comments

  1. thank you for writ­ing this article!

  2. Vouch­ers will con­tinue to be uncon­sti­tu­tional regard­less what takes place at the polls Novem­ber 6. Pas­sage or non-passage of Amend­ment 8 will not change that state­ment of fact.

    The focus of the amend­ment is gov­ern­ment fund­ing of social ser­vice pro­grams today and tomor­row. Amend­ment 8 seeks to ensure these cru­cial social ser­vice pro­grams pro­vided by faith-based groups will con­tinue. Recent law­suits have put them in poten­tial jeop­ardy and Amend­ment 8 will remove that jeop­ardy and allow reli­gious groups to con­tinue to vie for state fund­ing of social ser­vice pro­grams as has been the case for decades. Thou­sands of Florid­i­ans rely on these pro­grams each day for health ser­vices, sub­stance abuse treat­ment, hous­ing assis­tance, food pro­grams and much more.

    Read­ing more into this amend­ment than what is stated is totally mis­lead­ing. The Blaine Amend­ment is arcane and anti­quated. It does not belong in the Florida Con­sti­tu­tion. Its removal via pas­sage of Amend­ment 8 has no effect on the state estab­lish­ment clause, free exer­cise clause and pub­lic morals clause. It is also sub­ject to the First Amend­ment of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion so that any­thing pro­hib­ited by the First Amend­ment is still pro­hib­ited under state law. Amend­ment 8 pro­tects reli­gious free­dom sim­ply by restor­ing the sta­tus quo we enjoyed until recently: equal treat­ment of reli­gious and non-religious per­sons with respect to gov­ern­ment programs.

  3. In respose to JF, one thing at a time:

    Vouch­ers will con­tinue to be uncon­sti­tu­tional regard­less what takes place at the polls Novem­ber 6. Pas­sage or non-passage of Amend­ment 8 will not change that state­ment of fact.”

    They are uncon­sti­tu­tional today because of the Bush v Holmes rul­ing using Title IX lan­guage to strike down Jeb Bush’s voucher plan. Whether or not they remain uncon­sti­tu­tional will be up to the courts. Three of the jus­tices who ruled against vouch­ers are up for reten­tion and a lot of money has been spent to encour­age peo­ple to vote against retention.

    In fact, my state­ment “it will be up to the courts”, is not nec­es­sar­ily true, depend­ing on the out­come of the Nov. 6th election.

    Amend­ment 5 on the same bal­lot would allow a sim­ple major­ity of the leg­is­la­ture to over­turn court rul­ings. Right now they can only do that with a 2/3rds major­ity vote.

    Con­sid­er­ing what the make-up of the next leg­is­la­ture is likely to be, there is a very real pos­si­bil­ity that if Amend­ment 5 passes (irre­gard­less of whether 8 does), voucher uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ity will be chal­lenged and quite pos­si­bly overturned.

    Vote NO on 5, but vote NO on 8 also (for more rea­sons see next post)

  4. JF:

    Amend­ment 8 seeks to ensure these cru­cial social ser­vice pro­grams pro­vided by faith-based groups will con­tinue. Recent law­suits have put them in poten­tial jeop­ardy and Amend­ment 8 will remove that jeop­ardy and allow reli­gious groups to con­tinue to vie for state fund­ing of social ser­vice pro­grams as has been the case for decades.”

    I can­not find any other law­suit but one. The par­tic­u­lars of the case include the fact that the two groups were actively ‘preach­ing doc­trine’. As long as a Catholic hos­pi­tal or char­ity, or any other religious-affiliated group runs their social ser­vice pro­grams like a busi­ness (for exam­ple, being non-discriminatory in who they hire and who they serve) and not like a church, there is no rea­son to think the cur­rent level of fund­ing will be reduced or elim­i­nated, or that it could not increase, if more fund­ing was available.

    There is sim­ply not nearly enough evi­dence to sug­gest these pro­grams are in any real jeop­ardy, cer­tainly not enough to sug­gest we must amend our con­sti­tu­tion to pro­tect them.

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