Author Bridget Gaudette
I'm an ex-Jehovah's Witness with a focus on Black atheism, humanism, and sex-positive dialogue. | @BridgetGaudette
On November 6, 2012, Floridians will be asked to decide whether or not they want to amendment the state constitution. The ballot item will read:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
Also known as Amendment 8 or “Florida Religious Freedom”, the amendment, fundamentally, moves to repeal the state’s ban of public dollars for religious funding, aka the “Blaine Amendment.” Those of us that stand for the separation of church and state strongly oppose this amendment.
In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public money for sectarian schools. He opposed government support for “sectarian schools” run by religious organizations, and called for the defense of public education “unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas.” Grant declared that “Church and State” should be “forever separate.” Grant felt that religious teachings should be left to families, churches, and private schools and not to be funded with public monies.
Currently, 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation and this is how it should remain. We want all 50 to adopt this progressive stance.
The potential harms are many, affecting our children, religious communities, civil rights, church/state separation and how our tax dollars are used.
The Truth about Amendment 8
Erodes Church/State Separation
Religious entities already can and do get state funds but Amendment 8 would remove all safeguards currently in place.
Hurts Religious Communities
Amendment 8 would allow taxpayer dollars to flow directly to religious organizations. The faiths most likely to receive such funds are those that are most popular in the community, disfavoring minority religions. Amendment 8 would also turn religious entities into government contractors, making them subject to government oversight.
Harms Floridians’ Civil Rights
Amendment 8 could allow religious groups to discriminate in hiring for positions funded with your taxpayer money. It would also erode protections prohibiting those groups from requiring the most vulnerable Floridians to participate in religious activities in order to receive government assistance.
Opens the Door to School Vouchers
Vouchers force taxpayers to fund religious education. And, there is no evidence that vouchers improve student achievement. Furthermore, private schools that receive vouchers are not required to meet the same standards as public schools, including civil rights protections and specific educational goals.
Show your support for the plaintiffs on the case:
- Rabbi Merrill Shapiro of Temple Shalom in Deltona and president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Rev. Harry Parrott Jr., a retired Baptist minister and president of the Clay County, FL, Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- The Rev. Harold Brockus, a retired minister with the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ
- Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel in Tallahassee
- The Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ
- The Rev. Bobby Musengwa, Pastor of Maximo Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg
- Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association
- Lee Swift, president of the Florida School Boards Association
- Susan Summers-Persis, president of the Florida Association of School Administrators
- Florida Education Association
- National Education Association
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- ACLU of Florida and ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
- Anti-Defamation League
Your generous contributions will go towards my travel expenses to secular conventions and help to keep me blogging. Thanks in advance! -Bridget