From the Examiner, by Lou Colagiovanni
An amendment to the Florida constitution, the Florida Religious Freedom Amendment, has been added to the November ballot by Republicans that would allow public funds to be distributed to religious schools. Currently any use of tax dollars to fund religious institutions is constitutionally forbidden.
The amendment, known as “amendment 8”, has been sponsored by Florida Republican, Senator Stephen Precourt. The senator has a history of pursuing religious fundamentalism legislatively. In 2010 he was able create a tax credit for studios to create “family friendly” movies, while shunning and overly taxing those with homosexuals, or things deemed to be “racy.” The senator was quoted saying he wanted to return the state of Florida to the 1960s.
At issue is the language of the constitution which currently says:
There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
Republicans would desperately like to change the wording to this:
There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.
You will note the language will not be changed to explicitly say “it is legal to spend public money on religious institutions.” It adds the word discriminated, which adds no legislative power to the document as discrimination is a subjective term. However, barred is specific. What was illegal before — spending public money on religious institutions — will now be legal, if the amendment is passed it will be illegal to make it illegal to stop public money from being spent on religious institutions.
Amendment 8 also would increase the size of classrooms. It has been locally reported by tampabay.com that if Amendment 8 passes classrooms will increase by an average of 5 students.
The vote is scheduled for November 6, 2012.