The separation of church and state is the linchpin of religious liberty in our country. A state commission in Florida, however, wants to repeal the provisions in its state constitution that protect that freedom.
Every 20 years, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) convenes to review the Florida Constitution and propose constitutional amendments for the voters to consider. Unfortunately, this year’s commission, which is meeting over the next few months, is considering two proposals – Proposals 4 and 45 – that would strip away fundamental and longstanding religious freedom protections and threaten the integrity and autonomy of our houses of worship and religious schools.
Proposal 4 would fully repeal the no-aid provision of Article I, Section 3, of the Florida Constitution. Since 1885, the no-aid provision has ensured that religion and government remain separate and that the government does not spend taxpayer dollars to aid religious institutions, education or activities. It puts all faiths on equal footing, protecting the religious freedom rights of all Floridians, regardless of religious belief. Proposal 4 would remove these protections.
Proposal 45 would effectively repeal the uniform public education provision of Article IX, Section 1, which ensures that public dollars fund public schools that serve all students and are not funneled into private and religious schools.
During hearings on the proposals, many Floridians, including folks working with Americans United, took the opportunity to tell the CRC that they oppose these changes; they made it clear that they support religious liberty and public schools. There is still time for Floridians to chime in with the CRC and make their voices heard – and we need you to add yours.
The commission is holding its last public hearing next week – Tuesday, March 13, in St. Petersburg. This may be our last opportunity to speak out to the commission in person against these proposals. You can attend and tell the commission that you want to maintain the current religious protections in the constitution. We have team leaders willing to help coordinate AU’s presence in St. Petersburg, so email Bill Mefford to let him know you want to connect with other AU folks there.
Americans United also is working with faith leaders who oppose these attacks on religious liberty. The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, has explained: “Florida’s Constitution has successfully protected our religious freedoms for 130 years. Let’s keep what’s working.”
If you are a Florida faith leader – or if you know faith leaders in your community – you can help raise up the voices of the faith community. Sign the faith leader letter, which explains that the current constitutional provisions “are the foundation for the freedom of religion and belief for all Floridians – faith leaders and nonbelievers alike.”
For more about the faith leader letter and information on the ballot initiatives, check out www.floridafaithvoices.org.