Rather than strengthening the separation of church and state, the group said, the amendment will undermine it by allowing tax funding of private religious organizations.
“Amendment 8 is called ‘Religious Freedom’ but it will actually have the opposite effect,” said Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “This Amendment could force taxpayers to fund religious views they may oppose.”
The amendment, placed on the November 6 ballot by the Florida Legislature, would allow state government to give public funds to any private religious organization it chooses and would weaken the separation of church and state provisions currently in the state Constitution. In addition, the amendment could prove to be costly to taxpayers because it would open the floodgates and allow public funding of any organization calling itself a religion without any oversight or controls to safeguard the tax dollars.
Education advocates are also concerned that it would hurt public education by opening the door to direct tax funding of religious schools.
“Amendment 8 is not about freedom of religion,” said Eileen Segal, President of the Florida PTA. “The true intent is to de-fund our public schools.”
“Florida PTA believes public tax dollars should remain a means of support for our public education system,” Segal said. “Florida PTA is urging Florida voters to say NO to Amendment 8.”
“Religious entities already can, and do, get public funds to provide secular services,” said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, President of the Flagler County Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This funding is not in jeopardy. Amendment 8 is an overreaction that strips Florida’s Constitution of important safeguards currently in place.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida PTA, the Florida School Boards Association, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the National Council of Jewish Women, Anti-Defamation League, the Florida ACLU and the Florida Education Association are among the statewide organizations opposing the amendment.