The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

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Joe Conn
Rob Boston
Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Hails Florida Supreme Court Ruling Removing Deceptive Amendments From Florida Ballot

Decision Preserves Florida Constitution's Religious Liberty Protections, Says Church-State Watchdog Group


Americans United for Separation of Church and State hailed today's ruling by the Florida Supreme Court removing two ballot amendments that would have erased religious freedom safeguards and harmed public schools in the state.

The lawsuit, Ford v. Browning, filed by Americans United and other civil liberties and education groups in June, asserted the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission exceeded its authority by approving both ballot amendments and that one of the amendments is worded in a misleading manner.

"This ruling puts an end to a dangerous assault on the religious liberty rights of all Floridians," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "These reckless and deceptive amendments had no business being on the ballot in the first place, and we're glad to see them go."

Lynn noted that former Gov. Jeb Bush engineered the placement of the amendments on the ballot. If approved, they would have permitted voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in Florida and eliminated the state constitution's language barring tax aid to religion, opening up massive new streams of public funding to private religious schools and houses of worship.

"Religious liberty and public education are two cornerstones of the American way of life, and these amendments would have badly damaged both of them," said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and vice president of Americans United. "We're glad the Florida Supreme Court did its duty and put a stop to it."

In addition to Americans United, groups who backed the lawsuit include the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the Florida ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League and People For the American Way.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.