Amendment 8: Religious Freedom


Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 1:02 a.m.

A look at the constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot from the League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund:

Amendment 8: Religious Freedom

Synopsis: revives long-standing debates over the separation of church and state. It would repeal a 126-year-old provision in the state Constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. The provision – commonly known as the “no aid” provision – states more unequivocally than the U.S. Constitution that state funds not be spent “directly or indirectly” in support of any entity that promotes religion. If passed, the amendment would remove that prohibition. An important aspect of Amendment 8 concerns its impact on future school voucher programs. Past programs that included religiously affiliated schools have been deemed unconstitutional partly due to the “no aid” provision. Amendment 8 would remove that obstacle to restarting these programs, which allow parents to remove students from failing public schools and send them to private schools at taxpayers' expense. Supporters say the “no aid” provision discriminates against religious organizations. They argue this proposal offers support to groups with religious affiliations that provide valuable community services, like prison ministries or church-run after-school programs. Opponents say Amendment 8 will divert money from public schools and other public funding recipients and that it blurs the separation of church and state. Opponents point out that many religious groups, such as Catholic Charities, can receive public funding under the current law provided they do not promote their religion.

A vote YES on Amendment 8 would:

- Repeal the “no aid” provision in the Florida Constitution and allow public money to go to private religious institutions

- Allow the expansion of Florida's school voucher program to religious institutions and could result in money being directed to private religious schools at the expense of public schools

- Allow for a greater number of religious programs to be supported by taxpayer funding

A vote NO on Amendment 8 would:

- Maintain the “no aid” provision in the state Constitution that prohibits the government from funding religious institutions and groups that promote religion

- Maintain the constitutional provision the courts have cited when rejecting school voucher programs that fund religiously affiliated schools

- Maintain the separation of church and state as provided by the state Constitution since 1885

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