Misleading Measure: Clergy Explain The Truth Behind Florida’s Deceptive Amendment 8

No one could reasonably argue that clergy hate religion, so if they don’t support a “religious freedom” measure, what does that say about Amendment 8?

We’ve been telling you for months about all the church-state problems that would arise if Florida’s misleading Amendment 8 passes on Nov. 6. But you don’t have to take our word for it – a wide range of clergy are against the measure, too.

In a letter to the Tallahassee Democrat, the Rev. Grant Copeland of First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee and Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel, also in Tallahassee, said they oppose Amendment 8, because it is deceptive.

“The amendment is titled ‘Religious Freedom.’ The accurate title should be ‘Religious Funding,’” Copeland and Romberg wrote.  

They went on to note that Amendment 8 would remove a critical sentence from the Florida constitution, which currently states: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasure directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

Removing that clause would open the door to government funding of sectarian agendas at taxpayer expense, the clergy wrote.

“In short, citizens would be funding particular religious beliefs and perspectives — clearly a violation of the letter and spirit of the constitution of the United States.”

Other clergy are expressing the same sentiment. In a letter to the Tampa Bay Times, Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg and the Rev. Kathleen Korb of the Unitarian Universalist Church in St. Petersburg said Amendment 8 would not only allow the Florida government to fund religious organizations, it would have many negative consequences, such as religious organizations “competing with each other for government handouts. This is bound to be divisive and destructive of the goodwill that currently exists among faith groups.”

Torop and Korb also noted that those who support Amendment 8 say its main purpose is to allow religiously affiliated hospitals and charitable organizations to receive state money. “But these nonprofit organizations and charities already receive plenty of state money, from Medicaid to government contracts for social services, and that cash flow is not being threatened. Their religious affiliation is fine as long as they do secular work,” they said.

It’s pretty clear that many clergy are wise to the truth behind Amendment 8. It’s not about “religious freedom,” because religious freedom isn’t being threatened in Florida.

The only real threat is from this amendment, which would surely lead to conflicts between groups seeking limited government resources and force taxpayers to fund religious beliefs that they do not support.

I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue that clergy hate religion, so if they don’t support a “religious freedom” measure, what does that say about Amendment 8?