Fmr. Rep. Juan Zapata leading ‘Yes on 8’ campaign for religious freedom amendment

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Former Rep. Juan Zapata is heading an organization that will push for passage of proposed Amendment 8 to the state constitution, which would make it clear that state money can go to religious organizations. The measure, put on the November ballot by lawmakers, would change the constitution to say that “no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support, except as required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” Opponents of the proposal saw it generally as aimed at allowing school vouchers to be used at private schools. The organization that will be headed by Zapata, Citizens for Religious Freedom and Non-Discrimination, says it is equally important for protecting religiously-affiliated non-profits. “Throughout our history, governments have been allowed to work alongside non-profit groups, whether religious or not, to provide those in need with community, educational and social services,” said Zapata. “These partnerships are at risk,” because of recent court cases that have questioned whether state dollars could go to a prison halfway house affiliated with a religious group.

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.