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Borrowing Judge’s Words, Attorney General Bondi Rewrites Religious Aid Amendment

| December 20, 2011

No church-state worries for her.

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.

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.

Last week, Lewis struck down Amendment 7, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, saying the ballot summary was misleading because it gave 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 wrote, it would be stricter than the U.S. Constitution.

In his ruling, Lewis offered alternative language that he said would accurately and unambiguously summarize the proposal’s intent.

The new language, copied from Lewis’ opinion, reads:

“Religious Freedom: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing 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 of 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.”

FEA officials did not return a call late Tuesday as to whether they plan to continue their challenge in light of the new language. But another critic of the plan says the amendment is still unconstitutional.

“Whether in its original form or after today’s tinkering by the Attorney General, the proposal continues to mislead voters by failing to inform them of the chief purpose and actual impact of the amendment – to virtually require taxpayer funding of religious activities of churches, mosques and synagogues,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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12 Responses for “Borrowing Judge’s Words, Attorney General Bondi Rewrites Religious Aid Amendment”

  1. I. M. Agoste says:

    Does that mean along with Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals, Wiccans, Pagans, and Satanists, can get in line for funds from the state?

    • Witchy Mamma says:

      Why not? They are religious based entities too, so why would they be excluded? Just because they don’t fit underneath the ‘Christian’ umbrella doesn’t meant they aren’t afforded the same rights.

  2. John Boy says:

    If they want to take from the collection plate make it requirement that they contribute also. Eliminate the tax exempt status of all religious organizations, churches, schools, etc.

  3. some guy says:

    I agree with John Boy that Religious organations should pay some sort of taxes. I would not have them pay a tax on the donations they get maybe a tax on moneys made from their business they run or at least a tax on the lands they own. If Government gives our tax $$ to “non profits” for community aid

  4. elaygee says:

    Can’t wait to start Satan’s Handpuppet Day School as a charter and get state funding !

  5. palmcoaster says:

    I don’t feel my taxes should be funding any religious organization, Ms, Bondi! Taxes are to pay for the services to taxpayers…religious organizations are to be funded by their parishioners.We have enough burdens to sustain currently.

  6. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    I do NOT want my tax dollars used for religious purposes of ANY kind.

  7. NortonSmitty says:

    This is so wrong. This is nothing more that the culmination of the chipping away at the 1st amendment separation doctrine that has been accepted as a bedrock of our American society. It started with Jerry Falwell and the Reagan administration and has wormed its’ way from an unacceptable idea of the right-wing fringe into normalcy. It evolved into the innocent sounding “Faith-Based Initiatives” of the Bush/Cheney administration masking a crass and cynical way to funnel of tax dollars to the Televangelists and fundamentalist mega-churches that make up the Republican base.

    The sad part is it is being done not in the name of piety, or a hope that any given scripture will provide needed guidance to help our country or it’s citizens through tough times, but as a way to gain and solidify partisan political power. It can do nothing but corrupt both the government and the greedy bastards that hide behind the pulpit in the hunt for power and filthy lucre.

    A country dominated by televangelism would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers, who envisioned religion as personal and spiritual, not social and political. No particular variety of religion was intended to control the political agenda, to set the community’s moral tone or to judge who are the true believers and members of our society. But this is precisely the objective of the political church today.

    “Hence today I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator” –Adolph Hitler

    “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.” –George W. Bush

    And so it goes…

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    This is put out there as a ballot initiative to be voted on. It really is nothing more than an attempt to polish Rick Scotts Christian credentials. (although it’s well known that “You can’t Polish a Horse Turd” Thanks Dad)

    About ten years ago the Kansas State School Board wanted to teach “Intelligent Design” in science class alongside Evolution, seeing as how they were both “theories”. And it was cruising through to approval until one person, an unemployed engineer in Portland Oregon wrote a letter and insisted it be read into the record. And it was. And this one letter was so logical, so brilliant in it’s relative silliness but more than equal to the argument being put forth by the Board supporting Teaching Religious doctrine as Scientific Theory, that the measure was withdrawn.

    It was the most brilliant piece of satire since Swifts Gullivers Travels, and proved once again that someone who points out that the Emporer has No Clothes doesn’t always get beheaded.

    I think that it deserves to be read here. The link:

    If Pierre wishes, here’s the text. (No ink costs need consideration)

    Open Letter To Kansas School Board

    I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

    Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

    It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

    Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence.

    What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

    I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

    You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

    In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

    P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.

    NortonSmitty again. Link to see the drawings and charts, but as to the text, all I can add is Amen.

  9. Brian says:

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but is there not already a provision in the United States Constitution (which supersedes any and all State or Local laws) regarding the SEPARATION of church and state? In my opinion, this clearly is in violation of the US Constitution….and anyone in the state government that supports it is in direct violation of their oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of both the United States and the State in which they are in.

    Churches are nothing more than FOR PROFIT business entities hiding behind a 401/401c Non-Profit status to avoid paying taxes. If they do not pay taxes, then they should NOT receive tax dollars for any reason whatsoever. If you wish to receive my tax dollars for your church that I do not attend or believe in, then you need to make sure your church pays taxes! Otherwise, keep your religion out of my government!

    • Layla says:

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      While interpretations run far and wide, no, there is nothing written in the Constitution regarding the separation of church and state. This issue is not a violation of the Constitution.

      Attorney General Bondi is not breaking her oath of office.

  10. Pastor Sister Smith says:

    sectarian institution

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