A Ballot Measure in Florida Could Give Taxpayer Money to Religious Schools

The Broward County School Board in Florida, like many other districts in the state, has laid off a lot of teachers over the past few years. Things have gotten a little better, but they still rely on taxpayer money to function properly.

This November, there’s a ballot measure that could make it even harder for public school districts in the state (like Broward County) to provide adequate support to their students.

It’s called Amendment 8 (a.k.a. the Religious Freedom Amendment).

What’s Amendment 8 all about?

Right now, Article 1, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution says this:

There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. 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.

Makes perfect sense. The government shouldn’t be supporting religion.

If people vote “Yes on 8,” however, this is how the same section would look:

There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.

That’s a fancy way of saying that private religious schools could siphon away taxpayer money from public schools in order to advance their faith.

This can’t happen.

Even the Broward County School Board released a resolution letting voters know what they’re in for:

“Amendment 8 would remove the long-standing restriction in the Florida Constitution that prohibits the expenditure of public funds to support religious programs,” the resolution reads. “Passage of Amendment 8 could result in state funds being awarded to non-public schools, instead of allocated to support public and charter schools.”

60% of Florida voters must approve the ballot measure in order for it to pass, so groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State are urging Floridians to vote against the measure. In fact, they have a huge list of reasons why letting this amendment pass would be detrimental to all Floridians, including religious people.

Tell the people you know to vote No on Amendment 8.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.