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Eye on the States: Florida Amendment 8

Eye on the States: Florida Amendment 8

Amendment 8, which will appear on the ballot in November, would eliminate the Florida Constitution’s No-Aid Provision (sometimes called the Blaine Amendment), which prevents public funds from being used “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”  The goal of the Amendment is to strip church-state safeguards currently present when the government partners with religiously affiliated organizations and to open the door to private school vouchers.

The RAC strongly supports the Clergy Against 8 campaign, which speaks out on behalf of the faith community for religious freedom by voting against Amendment 8.

The Reform Movement’s own Rabbi Jack Romberg co-authored the following piece:

"One would hope that, in discussing an issue pertaining to religion, truth and honesty would prevail. After all, those of us who are the clergy for congregations try to stand for honesty if nothing else.

Does not God demand that we be truthful, that we present ourselves in a forthright and honest manner? As it states in Leviticus 19:11, “You shall not steal, you shall not deal falsely, you shall not lie to one another.” We wish the proponents of Amendment 8 would have paid a bit more attention to Leviticus.

The amendment is titled “Religious Freedom.” The accurate title should be “Religious Funding.”

Amendment 8 would remove from the Florida constitution this sentence: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasure directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” Repealing this clause, which has been in the Florida constitution for 127 years, opens the doors for government support of sectarian religious agendas at the expense of the taxpayer. In short, citizens would be funding particular religious beliefs and perspectives — clearly a violation of the letter and spirit of the constitution of the United States.

Supporters of this amendment assert that it is necessary in order to preserve funding for religiously operated programs that provide secular benefits for all. A typical example is a hospital operated by the Roman Catholic church.

They cite a recent court challenge to some programs receiving state dollars, particularly a prison ministry program. It must be noted, however, that the court case is focused on a situation in which Christian evangelism is an explicit part of the program. At issue is not providing guidance for prisoners, but whether a program that espouses a particular religious perspective is appropriate to fund with state money.

Our state has a long history of providing funds for programs that are of general benefit to the community, including those offered by religious organizations. We think it is inappropriate, however, for the government to endorse the religious dogma of a particular faith tradition.

Removing this restriction would open the door to implicit government endorsement of those religious sects receiving government funds. The constitution’s current wording leaves room for funding beneficial programs operated by religious organizations, provided they do not promote a particular religion.

We do not want to impute ill motives to the proponents of this amendment. Yet its title and the primary reason given for its necessity would seem to violate another Levitical commandment — not to “put a stumbling block before the blind.” (19:14) We believe a “no” vote on Amendment 8 is most appropriate."

For more information, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Raechel Banks.

Published: 11/01/2012

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