Religion and the public schools

Jeb Bush is unhappy today (which makes me happy.)  He’s pushed the religious agenda in Florida ever since he was governor.  First, he was blocked by the Florida Supreme Court in 1999 when they said that the Florida constitution prohibited it.  He later struck out with the state legislature.  Then he proceeded to stack the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.  That Commission put two amendments on the ballot that would remove the existing ban on providing tax aid to religion.

The amendments cleverly focused on a provision that would require that at least 65% of public school funds be spent on classroom activities.  Sound good?  I suppose so.  However, the seemingly positive 65% rule overshadowed language that would open the door to providing school vouchers to private schools.  In fact, nearly two-thirds of voters polled supported the amendments because of the 65% solution.  However, if the school vouchers stood alone, the approval rating dropped to under 40%.

The ADL succinctly summarized it by saying…

Amendment 7 would have eliminated long-established religious freedom protections from the Florida Constitution. It would also have rewritten the Florida Constitution to require Florida taxpayers to support religious organizations, religious discrimination in hiring, and proselytizing.   Amendment 9 would have altered the Florida Constitution to authorize, if not mandate, the State to fund private schools through vouchers or other means.

 

The Florida Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Taxation Commission exceeded its authority in placing the amendments on the ballot.  Incidentally, three of the seven members of the court were appointed by Jeb Bush.

 

USA Today notes…

Supporters of the initiatives contend that the current constitutional restrictions were originally enacted by Protestants to discriminate against Catholic groups. The Florida Catholic Conference and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami were among the religious organizations that intervened in the suit.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which provided financial assistance for the case, called the state’s current policy “obnoxious.”

“Floridians should have had the right to vote on the matter, and obviously it’s very sad when advocacy groups step in and silence citizens from voting,” McCaleb said.

If you want more detail, you can find it in the Miami Herald.

I fail to understand, much less have any sympathy with, those who continue to force religion into the public schools.  Are there not enough religious organizations, is there standing room only in our churches, can’t parents find enough time to infuse religious beliefs of their choice into their children.  Why must the rest of us be inflicted with this need to protect the concept of separation of church and state?  Why?

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