Americans United is happy to report that Florida’s Amendment 8, the so-called “religious freedom” amendment, was defeated handily on Election Day.
Out of more than 7.6 million ballots cast, this misguided amendment drew only 44.95 percent in favor. The measure needed 60 percent approval in order to pass.
Rejection of the scheme – pushed by the state Catholic hierarchy and assorted Religious Right groups – was widespread. Out of 67 counties in the state, just six voted in favor.
In case the post-election fog has left your memory shaky, this amendment would have allowed taxpayer money to flow directly to religious schools, ministries and houses of worship. Passage would have stripped the religious freedom protections currently enshrined in the Florida Constitution, thus allowing for direct funding of religious organizations and opening the door to taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools.
That’s why Americans United and its allies worked so hard for months to defeat the measure. Since the spring, AU has partnered with a coalition of progressive groups known as Vote No On 8. The coalition engaged in a number of activities, which included creation of an educational website and the airing of statewide radio ads.
Much of the work in opposition to Amendment 8 was undertaken by AU’s Legislative and Field Departments. Monthly conference calls were held with our Florida chapters, staff members traveled to Florida to speak about the measure and flyers were circulated that explained why the so-called “religious freedom” amendment was misleading and dangerous.
Americans United also organized local clergy who supported our cause and helped them place op-eds and letters to the editor that were printed in newspapers statewide. In fact, AU created a special website just for clergy to voice their opposition to Amendment 8.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of AU’s board of trustees, played an instrumental role in defeating Amendment 8 by doing media interviews, writing op-eds, speaking to congregations and meeting with religious leaders in Florida.
Back in Washington, D.C., Americans United interns also spent hours contacting our Florida members by phone to make sure they knew the truth about this ballot boondoggle.
There is no question Amendment 8 lost thanks to a combined effort of AU staff, members, allies and citizens. Americans United and its members worked hard to make sure everyone in Florida knew what this “religious freedom” amendment was really about.
So thank you to all those who voted against Amendment 8, and we hope you will stand with us again the next time church-state separation comes under attack.