by Paul Azzario
Ramifications of the 8th amendment to the Florida Constitution passing
The right wing religious special interest groups in Tallahassee have succeeded in lobbying the Republican controlled State Congress to attempt to alter Florida’s Constitution and force the taxpayer to fund religious schools and other religious institutions.
As part of the ballot in the November General Election, Amendment 8, as it is known, seeks to open the public purse to all and any religious institutions, the result of which will ultimately serve to dilute the quality of our public schools to the benefit of organized religious institutions.
The Blaine Amendment to the Florida Constitution, which upholds the Founding Father’s original intent regarding the separation of Church and State, has been in the cross-hairs of Republicans ever since the Florida Supreme Court rightly shot down ex-Governor Jeb Bush’s so-called Opportunity Scholarship Program, the nation’s first statewide school voucher scheme.
After failed attempts in recent years, the Republican-controlled Legislature has now been able to use its super-majority to force the amendment on to the ballot.
The measure requires 60 percent voter approval for adoption.
The measure first appeared as Amendment 7, but on December 14, 2011 Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in the case of Shapiro v. Browning that the legislatively proposed measure could no longer be on the 2012 ballot, however Attorney General Pam Biondi has managed to slip it back onto the ballot with some astute legal juggling.
Judge Lewis ruled that the phrase that the framers of amendment 8 had used to describe its objectives- of making Florida law “consistent with the U.S. Constitution” was ambiguous and misleading. The phrase, Lewis said, implied that it would make Florida’s Constitution in conformity with the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment, which it clearly did not.
There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.
No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
It is crucially important to understand that the first two (non underlined) sentences are the present wording of Florida’s Constitution; that the underlined portion, moreover, represents the proposed new wording, and finally, the section marked with strike through would be
At a stroke then, the agents of the religious right-wing are thus seeking to use taxpayers’ money to fund church schools, and are also laying the ground for possibly funding other religious organizations and sects. This will have a severe and debilitating effect upon our already beleaguered public school system, as well as giving taxpayers’ money to unregulated institutions, some of which advocate corporal punishment, have documented history of other severe abuses, let alone the promotion of primitive and unscientific ideas.
If there is ONE thing that goes totally against the ideals and intent of America’s Founding Fathers, surely this is it!
Many secular and even some religious groups are opposing amendment 8, including The Florida Education Association (FEA); The Florida School Board Association (FSBA); The Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA), and Rabbi Merrill Shapiro of First Congregation Sons of Israel.
Fl. Rep. Scott Randolph said it best, however:
“Throughout the 2011 legislative session, Republican legislators disguised the proposed constitutional amendment as one that would merely protect religious freedom and end religious discrimination. But in actuality, this proposal has one purpose: to allow the unlimited use of taxpayers’ money to send children to private schools instead of building a quality public school system.”
Here are a few links to the well documented cases of abuse routinely committed in many religious schools. There are hundreds more to be found via Google.
The germane question to be asked is:
Why should taxpayers’ money ever be allowed to fund unregulated and unscientific institutions such as the passage of amendment 8 will allow?
However, what if amendment 8 should pass? After all, the mentally subnormal of this state have demonstrated time and time again their desire to elect crooks, liars and half-wits to even the highest of state offices…
If the unthinkable DOES come to pass, perhaps we should take a leaf out of the founder of The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s playbook and go to court to demand equal funding for every single cult, and half-baked religion we can invent. It would be interesting to replay that battle again, as the big organized religions would be forced into proving the existence of their own particular god and the worthiness of their particular cult whilst simultaneously trying to disprove the existence of everyone else’s deity of choice and the reasons exactly why they should not be receiving equal amounts of money.
Could make a good sequel to The Book of Mormon