December 2011 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A group of religious and community leaders in Florida has asked a Florida court to bar a deceptive 2012 ballot amendment that would let the state give taxpayer money to religious organizations.

Supporters of Amendment 7 say the measure would ensure religious freedom, but opponents told Leon County Judge Terry Lewis Oct. 7 that the scheme would actually mandate state funding of religion. The amendment’s language is misleading to voters, they said, and therefore should not be placed on the ballot.

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Americans United Board of Trustees and a plaintiff in the case, says voters should know the truth. In an Oct. 5 op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, Shapiro said the amendment “is a bad idea. Not only is it contrary to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution, it is also a clear violation of Florida’s Constitution. Our state constitution ensures that no taxpayer dollars may aid ‘any church, sect or religious denomination or … any sectarian institution.’”

The Shapiro v. Browning lawsuit is sponsored by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League and the Florida Education Association (FEA).

According to an Oct. 27 article in the Florida Independent, FEA President Andy Ford called the amendment “a shady way of opening the door for school vouchers for all. Throughout the nation, voters have repeatedly rejected voucher initiatives, which would weaken our public schools.”