Government

Bondi Revises Ballot Language for 'Religious Freedom' Amendment

By: Jim Turner | Posted: December 21, 2011 3:55 AM

Attorney General Pam Bondi has resubmitted ballot language a week after a Leon County judge agreed with critics that the wording of the "Religious Freedom" amendment was too “ambiguous.”

The revised ballot summary for Amendment 7 on the November 2012 ballot adopts suggestions from Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, the attorney general’s office stated in a release.

“Voters deserve an opportunity to decide whether to remove from Florida's Constitution a provision that discriminates against religious institutions,” Bondi stated in a release. “The revised ballot summary completely cures the legal defect identified in Judge Lewis' ruling striking down the original ballot summary.”

The new ballot language, submitted Tuesday to the Department of State, replaces language that Lewis ruled gave the appearance the ballot item would make it harder for the state to deny funding for sectarian institutions.

Challengers, which include the Florida Education Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have 10 days to file a legal challenge to the revised language.

Amendment 7, approved by legislators in the spring for the November ballot, is designed to upend the century-old constitutional ban on using taxpayer money for the “aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

In a lawsuit filed July 20, opponents claimed the wording failed to tell voters that the amendment’s aim is simply to compel the state to extend benefits to religious institutions.

Lewis, in his Dec. 13 ruling, sided with the critics that the wording of the ballot was legally defective, but disagreed with the contention that the title of the amendment, “Religious Freedom,” was misleading.

The new language adds that no individual or entity may be denied except “as required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Lewis, in his ruling, favored the term “required by,” noting that Amendment 7 favors a “free exercise” of religion.

The revised language reads:

“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 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.”

The rejected language stated:

“Proposing an amendment to the state Constitution to provide that no individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief and to delete 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.”

 

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.


Comments (2)

George Klaes
10:29PM DEC 26TH 2011
"The American Party affirms and will maintain the fugitive slave law. ... the know-nothings do not prefer Catholics for office-if the antis do, they have the right to exercise the privilege-Know Nothings think Catholics are not qualified for office in the United States. The American Party will not pretend to say whether President Pierce could or could not been elected without the support of the Foreign and Catholic vote, but it does say that the Foreign and Catholic vote has been allowed by his administration to obtain an undue weight in government, unprecedented in former years and dangerous to the liberties of the country, calculated in a few years to subvert our democratic institutions and replace them by those of the countries from whence this Foreign and Catholic vote has come."

An anonymous Know-Nothing of Tampa; 9/6/1855

Google the Know-Nothings of Hillsborough County
George Klaes
10:03PM DEC 26TH 2011
"We have mostly to contend with the protestant schools, which are the only schools recognized by the government, and, by the same, are grandly supported and comfortable, lacking nothing they desire."
Mother Sidonie, Sisters of St Joseph, St Augustine, Florida; 1/29/1869

"The work of the Freedmen's Bureau in St. Johns County was a partnership between the United States Government, the local school system which was supported by county taxes, and several freedmen's aid associations, including the AMA missionaries. These organizations maintained primary schools, night schools, Sabbath schools, industrial training schools, normal schools, and summer schools."

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