Friday, February 10, 2012

Florida Faces Voucher Struggle

The Florida’s Constitution forbids tuition vouchers for religious schools.
Floridians will have to struggle to keep that provision.
In November 2012, the following item will appear on the ballot.
“RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.—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 to 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.”
When the legislature passed the proposed amendment, it included a misleading ballot summary. Hoping to knock the amendment off the ballot, voucher opponents challenged the questionable language in state court. Judge Terry Lewis agreed that the summary misled, and he suggested the version above. The Florida Attorney General adopted the judge’s version, and the proposed amendment stayed on the ballot.
The voucher opponents objected to the title, Religious Freedom. They said the title implied that the amendment would increase religious freedom; but, it would in fact decrease religious freedom. If it passed, the state could compel taxpayers to promote religious opinions they rejected.
The judge disagreed. He said, “The section of the constitution sought to be amended is, in fact, titled Religious Freedom. The subject matter of the proposed amendment clearly deals with this subject.”

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