Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Don't be fooled by Florida's Amendment 8

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You are being manipulated.

That may sound harsh, but it's probably better than saying you are being lied to. And, really, either description fits.

If you plan to vote in the Nov. 6 general election, you are going to run across an amendment on the ballot that has to do with striking down a 127-year-old provision in the state Constitution. The official title for this proposed measure is Amendment 8.

On the ballot, it has another name: Religious Freedom.

Catchy, isn't it? Makes you conjure up all sorts of horrible images. Discrimination. Persecution. Suppression. Anti-this and anti-that.

Except this is what the amendment is really about: money.

Basically, this law would eliminate a previous amendment to the Constitution that says government revenue cannot be given to religious groups. Any religious group. Not just Protestants. Not just Catholics. Not just Muslims or Jews. Any religious group.

In other words, this fight for religious freedom is striking down a law that is actually the epitome of fairness when it comes to religious groups.

So why is Amendment 8 called Religious Freedom?

This is where the manipulation comes in. The authors were hoping to sway voters with an exploitative and misleading title. If you don't think so, check out the language of other ballot amendments.

For instance, Amendment 11 is the Additional Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors Who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value amendment. Not the You're Killing Granny! amendment.

It's the difference between specific and honest language versus emotional and obtuse.

Which brings us back to what Amendment 8 is really trying to accomplish.

Supporters say it is a necessary reaction to a lawsuit that challenged the use of state funds for a prison ministries program in Florida. Without the protection of this amendment, they say, all faith-based charities could be at risk.

Critics, meanwhile, contend Amendment 8 is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to resume the fight for vouchers for private schools in Florida. This is why school boards across the state have come out against this amendment.

Naturally, neither side sees the justification of the opponents' argument.

Supporters say vouchers aren't even in the equation since a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling shot them down without invoking the no-aid-to-religions amendment.

Of course, that rationale conveniently ignores the fact that, two years after the Supreme Court ruling, Tallahassee insiders were still trying to sneak voucher amendments onto the ballot specifically to destroy the same no-aid law being attacked again in Amendment 8.

And it's worth remembering that former Gov. Jeb Bush said no "option should be taken off the table'' when it came to circumventing the court's ruling.

Bottom line?

Amendment 8 allows taxpayer money to go to churches.

Maybe you're okay with that. Maybe you think the government should be supporting worthwhile charities and faith-based initiatives.

Unfortunately, I'm more skeptical of their intentions.

If the first two words of your amendment are a blatant misrepresentation, I'm going to have a hard time believing anything that follows.

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