Aug 04, 2008

Americans United for Separation of Church and State will appeal Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper’s decision to allow two amendments on Florida’s November ballot that could erase religious freedom safeguards and harm public schools in the state. 

Americans United filed a lawsuit, Ford v. Browning, along with other civil liberties and education groups in June, urging the court to remove the amendments because the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission exceeded its authority in approving both ballot amendments and because one of the amendments is worded in a misleading manner.

AU hoped the court would see through former Gov. Jeb Bush’s backdoor political maneuver to get these amendments on the ballot and do the right thing in removing them.

"These dangerous proposals have no business being on the ballot,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “We will appeal this decision.

“We cannot stand by and let Jeb Bush and his cronies succeed in manipulating and misleading Floridians,” Lynn continued.

If these amendments are voted into law, they will permit voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in Florida and eliminate the state constitution’s language barring tax aid to religion. The result is that houses of worship and religious schools could receive massive new streams of public funding.

In addition to Americans United, groups who backed the lawsuit include the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Association of District School Superintendants, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the Florida ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League and People For the American Way.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.