July/August 2012 Church & State | People & Events

A proposed Florida constitutional amendment has the potential to radically redefine the relationship between church and state, a rabbi has warned.

Rabbi Kurt F. Stone of North Broward Havurah in Coral Springs employed a historical allusion in his May 7 essay for OpEdNews.com. He refer­red to the famous battle of Troy when Greeks laid siege to the city but could not find a way inside the walls – until they came up with the Trojan horse.

The enormous hollow horse appeared to be a gift, but when the men of Troy pulled it inside the city gates, they unknowingly sealed their fate.  The horse was full of top Greek warriors who opened the gates to the city, leading to an invasion.

“And ever since,” wrote Stone, “the term ‘Trojan Horse’ has been a metaphor for any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space. Like the folks of ancient Troy, we, the citizens of Florida have a Trojan Horse parked outside the gates of our once ‘securely protected bastion’: Amendment 8.”

Continued Stone, “Far from being a measure to preserve religious freedom, Amendment 8 is intended to enshrine state government funding of religious schools and organizations.”

Stone argued that the amendment is not necessary, noting that the state can and does partner with religious groups under certain circumstances. If enacted, it will, he said, gut public education.

Americans United has been working with Florida groups to educate voters about Amendment 8, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. In May, AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett and Assistant Field Director for Religious Outreach Steven Baines toured the state, working with AU chapters on a series of educational events.

Garrett spoke first in Ft. Lauderdale, then traveled to Miami and Dade County; she also spoke in Naples. Baines, meanwhile, started out in Jacksonville, then traveled to Flagler County. Garrett and Baines ended with events in Sarasota and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg.

Baines said he was pleased by the positive reaction he and Garrett received.

“People are really worried that Florida voters don’t know what the real impact of this amendment is,” Baines said. “The ballot language sounds harmless, even beneficial. But it’s really a giant python that will strangle religious liberty and swallow it whole!”

For more information about Amendment 8, visit AU’s website at: http://au.org/flamendment8