Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday struck down part of a proposed amendment that would allow taxpayer money to go toward religious institutions, calling the language of the ballot summary ambiguous, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.
But backers of the measure, referred to as Amendment 7, called the ruling a minor and easily fixable setback that could be remedied in time for voters to still have a chance to address the issue in November.
In a 12-page ruling, Lewis said the language that voters would read in the summary of Amendment 7, passed by lawmakers earlier this year to be placed on the November 2012 ballot, was misleading, giving voters the impression that passing it would conform the state constitution to the First Amendment protections outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
In fact, Lewis said the proposal, if approved by voters, would set standards more restrictive than the U.S. Constitution.
But Lewis went on to reject two other arguments brought to him by the Florida Education Association, which is opposed to the proposed amendment. Lewis said the ballot title “Religious Freedom” was not misleading and also upheld a recently enacted law that will allow the attorney general to rewrite the ballot summary to make it more clear.
“To quote Meatloaf, Two out of three ain’t bad,” said Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, House sponsor of the bill.
At issue is a provision in the Florida constitution that courts have ruled goes beyond its federal counterpart in preventing tax dollars from being funneled to religious groups. The “no aid” provision in the state constitution prohibits tax dollars from going to churches or religious groups.
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