AG Pam Bondi re-writes 'Religious Freedom' amendment to get it back on the ballot; ACLU responds

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Taking the words right out of a circuit judge’s order, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday released a revised ballot summary to accompany a proposed constitutional amendment barring the state from limiting funds to religious institutions, reports MIchael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

A week after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis of Tallahassee struck down portions of Amendment 7, saying its summary wouldn’t be clear to voters, Bondi issued a revised ballot summary that copies a suggested one written by Lewis in his Dec. 13 opinion in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association.

“Voters deserve an opportunity to decide whether to remove from Florida’s constitution a provision that discriminates against religious institutions,” Bondi said in a statement. “The revised ballot summary completely cures the legal defect identified in Judge Lewis’s ruling striking down the original ballot summary.”

In his 12-page ruling, Lewis upheld two of three provisions challenged by the FEA, saying the ballot title “Religious Freedom” properly described the amendment approved by lawmakers earlier this year. Lewis also sided with lawmakers by ruling that Bondi’s office could change the language in the ballot summary if he struck it down, which he did.

But Lewis did agree with FEA on one point, that the ballot summary was ambiguous and misleading.

At issue is a provision in the Florida constitution – a “no aid” provision, also sometimes called a Blaine Amendment – that prevents tax dollars from being funneled to religious groups. The amendment would remove the language from the constitution, clearing the way for religious groups to accept state tax dollars for their work.

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***Updated***Below is a statement from Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida regarding the Attorney General

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.