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Blaine Amendment to go to voters

Published May 10, 2011

For a couple of years, some Florida lawmakers have tried to get the state to consider elimination of the Blaine Amendment to the state constitution.

Today they finally succeeded.

By a vote of 26-10, the Florida Senate joined a divided Florida House in agreeing to place an item before voters asking them to remove language that prohibits state tax revenue from being used to aid religious organizations or institutions. Some have argued that the change would open the door to using state funds for vouchers to religious schools.

Sponsor Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, pitched the idea as one of freedoms, one that would end bigotry against religious groups.

"Give the people of this state the opportunity to move the constitution to reflect the light of libtery that the federal Constitution provides," Altman urged his colleagues.

Democratic leader Sen. Nan Rich contended that the change, which would require 60 percent voter approval, would send the wrong message. She called it an argument in search of a problem, saying that the state already permits the use of tax money for social services provided by religious groups -- just not for espousing religion.

"We may have gotten there for the wrong reasons, but actually I believe it's the right reason now, to support the separation of church and state," Rich said.

The bill passed the House last month 81-35.