Amendment 8, yes or no

Photo via Examiner.com

Amendment 8, a repeal of the Blaine Amendment, is on the Florida ballot for the November elections. If approved, it will give more money to Christian churches, and the Secular Coalition of America is in strong opposition.

“Florida might be required to fund religious entities even if they claim their religious beliefs won’t allow them to perform all of the services,” said the Coalition in a recent email newsletter. (The services “religious entities” may refuse to offer are abortions)

The Blaine Amendment restricts the state from giving financial aid to churches, even if they will be using the money for community service. The Coalition believes this is an adequate representation of separation of church and state.

The Orlando Sentinel reported:

Those supporting a “yes” vote on Amendment 8 say removing Blaine’s language will protect religious freedom and remove a sentence tainted by the politics and prejudices of the late 19th Century. Opponents [The Secular Coalition of America] call the measure an underhanded effort to expand school voucher programs and shift taxpayer funding from public to private schools.

The Blaine Amendment was named for James G. Blaine, Speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives, who first proposed the idea of restricting religious groups to the House in 1875.  While accepted by the House, it was dismissed by the Senate. But instead of dying there many states still adopted the amendments and they are now instituted in 37 states throughout America.

Many Christian churches and organizations in Florida are eager for the installment of Amendment 8 and the repeal of the Blaine Amendment. The repeal would give them the opportunity to participate in public events, programs and giving service to their community.

Garcia-Tunon of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) said:

Amendment 8 eliminates discrimination against churches and religious institutions that have long provided vital social services to many of Florida’s most needy at a time when funding for those services is in jeopardy. It makes no sense whatsoever to have service providers banned from the public square simply because they are religious.

Americans United, a group dedicated to preserving the separation of church and state, is urging Floridians to vote no to Amendment 8.

The goal of Amendment 8 is to allow taxpayer money to flow to religious schools and houses of worship. Passage of the Amendment would strip the religious freedom protections currently enshrined in the Florida Constitution, thus allowing for the direct funding of religious organizations that provide faith-based social services and opening the door to taxpayer funding vouchers for religious schools.

This viscous battle goes all the way up to previous Florida Governor Jeb Bush who is a promoter of Amendment 8. Bush is respected on both sides of the party line, so his opinion should, and probably does, mean something to a lot of people. Even so, a lot of support has been given on the other side of the argument. One opposition to the ballet is the Vote No on 8 committee which has raised about 1$ million in their fight against Amendment 8.

But, is it ever a good idea for religion to be controlled by the state. The Blaine Amendment was born out of religious discrimination, primarily towards Catholic schools. In today’s world this hindrance of religious freedom not only places government in a position of power over the church, but also inhibits religious organizations from giving to public services. Is the skepticism toward the church so great that it’s work in the community is put under the microscope?

In a Say Yes On 8 press statement,  Garcia-Tunon said that:

 Services provided by faith-based organizations benefit all segments of society: religious hospitals and clinics that provide Medicaid services, elder care and indigent care; substance abuse programs; hospice care; housing assistance for the disabled or homeless; soup kitchen and food programs; prison outreach and disaster relief services; HIV prevention services and certain college and K-12 scholarship programs.

Garcia went on to say:

These are by no means luxuries, but services meeting the basic needs of many Floridians. This is a two-fold opportunity to do what is right in a manner that is consistent with the faithful citizenship of CALL and its membership.

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