With just over a week left in this rollercoaster legislative session that has been riddled with attacks on civil liberties, we have an urgent request to make of you.
Last week, we told you about SJR 2550 and HJR 1399, joint resolutions that would amend the Florida Constitution and threaten our religious liberty. Now more than ever, legislators need to hear that you, their constituents, are against these bills. Tell your legislators to oppose SJR 2550 and HJR 1399.
Senate and House committees have both moved forward with a plan to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would repeal Florida’s 125-year-old basic “no aid” provision governing church-state relations in the Sunshine State. All but 11 states in the nation have some form of a “no aid” provision in their constitutions; stripping our governing document of this principle would be bad for everyone.
Urge legislators to oppose Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2550 and House Joint Resolution (HJR) 1399. A three-fifths vote of each chamber is required to place a state constitutional amendment on the ballot. If passed by the voters, this amendment would severely undermine religious liberty in our state.
SJR 2550 and HJR 1399 would delete the following from the Florida Constitution: No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
In its place, SJR 2550 and HJR 1399 would add: An individual may not be barred from participating in any public program because that individual has freely chosen to use his or her program benefits at a religious provider.
Sounds good, right? Deceptive language frequently does. Florida’s Constitution already guarantees that “No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.: And, of course, there are state and federal civil rights laws barring discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation.
So the proponents must have something else in mind, like vouchers at church-run schools, an idea that does not die in the Florida Legislature. Both SJR 2550 and its House companion HJR 1399 propose amendments to our state constitution that are not about remedying religious discrimination in our state. Instead, they would open the floodgates to unlimited school
voucher programs and allow taxpayer funding of religious-based social service and health
care programs through vouchers similar to those proposed for education.
Legislators will have you believe that this measure would overcome religious discrimination. But following constitutional principles that prohibit taxpayer funds for religion is not a form of religious discrimination – it is a principle that protects religious freedom for all by ensuring that government does not show preference for one religious tradition over another.
This bill is highly deceptive and Florida voters deserve better from our legislature. Take a moment now and write your legislators to tell them so. We must urge them to vote against this divisive proposal.
ACLU of Florida