Saturday, November 18, 2017
News Roundup

Separation of church and state at the heart of Amendment 8

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE —In many ways, Amendment 8 boils down to this:

When Jerod Powers, 38, left prison in Jacksonville, he had only a change of clothes, his release papers and pocket change. He went to Prisoners of Christ halfway house — an organization that receives some state financial assistance — where he got food, clothes, substance abuse counseling and help finding a job at a lawn care business.

Powers also got spiritual guidance.

That case, now playing out in court, asks whether Prisoners of Christ violated a state constitutional ban on the use of taxpayer dollars for promoting religion.

The New York-based Council for Secular Humanism, which is suing the halfway house and the state, contends the Department of Corrections' $22,000 contract violates the Blaine Amendment, a ban on state money for religious organizations.

Enter Amendment 8, which seeks to make the lawsuit, and other potential legal challenges, moot.

It would repeal the Blaine Amendment and replace it with a law that prohibits the state from considering religious affiliation when it disburses funds.

"We don't force anything on anybody," said Prisoners of Christ executive director Dan Palmer, adding that 11 percent of prisoners who get help from his program return to prison, compared with the state average of 35 percent.

Amendment 8, one of 11 constitutional amendments on the November ballot, revives a century-old battle of whether religious organizations should have the same access to state dollars as everyone else, said Tony Carvajal of the Collins Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank in Tallahassee.

The U.S. Constitution would still ban states from favoring one faith-based organization over another.

"Let's take two different food banks, two different nonprofits. The way the law is now written, one associated with a religious entity can't get government support, but the other could," Carvajal said.

Opponents of Amendment 8 contend that faith-based community service groups can continue to contract with the state as they always have.

They say it's dangerous to introduce a law to change the way Florida defines the separation of church and state.

"This would force taxpayers to spend money promoting religion they may or may not support," said League of Women Voters president Deirdre Macnab, who opposes the amendment.

Teachers unions and other groups argue the amendment isn't about religion at all, but about reinstating former Gov. Jeb Bush's school voucher program, which the Florida Supreme Court struck down in 2006.

The program offered vouchers to the parents of students in failing public schools so they could enroll their student in any private school, whether church-run or not, and use the state voucher money to help with tuition.

"I hear a lot of people who are really, really in favor of vouchers talking an awful lot about how this has nothing to do with vouchers," said Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association. "I find that suspicious."

Courts decided the voucher program violates the Blaine Amendment as well as the Constitution's "uniformity clause," which compels the state to provide a free system of public schools to all children. If Amendment 8 passes, school vouchers would still be unconstitutional under the uniformity clause.

Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, a sponsor of the amendment, argues the proposal is not about vouchers, but about discriminating against people of faith.

"Why should one group be allowed to compete, but not others?" he said. "That's just not right."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI GARDENS — The undefeated season was slipping away, and so was any realistic chance Miami had of getting into the College Football Playoff and competing for a national championship. That is, until seven seconds changed everything. Just like tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

PHILADELPHIA — McKenzie Milton threw four touchdowns and ran for a score as No. 14 Central Florida comfortably took care of business against Temple, winning 45-19 Saturday to stay unbeaten heading into a showdown with rival USF. The Knights (10-0, 7-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

Malcolm Young, the AC/DC co-founder whose brash guitar riffs, tight songwriting and live-wire personality defined an era of rock ‘n’ roll, has died. He was 64.AC/DC announced his death on its Facebook page Saturday. The time, location and cause of hi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
On the night shift in Seminole Heights, Tampa police keep watch for a killer

On the night shift in Seminole Heights, Tampa police keep watch for a killer

TAMPA — Tampa Police Lt. Gary Neal is almost halfway into his shift when the shots ring out.He jumps into his white 2016 Dodge Charger and races the few blocks from District 3 headquarters to the scene of a drive-by shooting in a city rattled by a sp...
Updated: 2 hours ago

HomeTeam Hot Shots: Female nominations for Nov. 11-17

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate female Hot Shots from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Nov. 11-Friday, Nov. 17. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Mond...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State tied a school record for first-half points as it rolled to a 77-6 victory over Delaware State on Saturday. The 71-point win also marks the second-highest margin of victory by Florida State. The record is 74 in a shutout ag...
Updated: 2 hours ago

HomeTeam Hot Shots: Male nominations for Nov. 11-17

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male Hot Shots from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Nov. 11-Friday, Nov. 17. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Boater missing in waters north of Bradenton, dog found alive

Boater missing in waters north of Bradenton, dog found alive

CORTEZ — The Coast Guard and others are scouring the waters near Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island, for a 63-year-old boater who has been missing since Friday evening. Fraser Horne, from Cortez, left Egmont Key on his 30-foot boat, Golde...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

TAMPA — Belief is the biggest attribute a quarterback can bring to his team. Belief in his talent. Belief in his commitment to winning. Belief in his ability to bring everyone together and have his voice lead the path forward.But the belief the Bucs ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

TAMPA — Can the Bucs pull off back-to-back wins with a backup quarterback? Win a game on the road for the first time this season? Politely hand the unnamed trophy for the state’s worst football team back to the Dolphins?Mike Evans is back from his su...
Updated: 4 hours ago