Passed in 1885, Florida’s “No Aid" ban firmly states that no state money should be given to directly or indirectly aid any religious or sectarian organizations. However, grey areas still remain. For example, Christian ministers are currently paid by the state to rehabilitate incarcerated offenders, and Catholic Charities receives state funds to run homeless shelters. An associate professor at the University of Miami School of Law said the murkiness of the issue “has not been resolved by the highest court of Florida.”
That might change. The president of the Council for Secular Humanism recently filed a lawsuit claiming "faith-based programming in Florida" violates the separation between church and state. In response, the First District Court of Appeal ruled that religious groups can continue to receive state funds for non-religious purposes. If an appeal is filed, the case could go to the Florida Supreme Court. (Source: Miami Herald.)
From an interfaith perspective, one noteworthy aspect of this case is that so many religious organizations currently receiving state funds are Christian. The ACLU fought against a Floridian voucher program in the mid-2000s because the program diverted tax dollars from public schools to "private, mostly church-run schools." In fact, the Florida Department of Education reported that 75% of the schools participating in the voucher program were religious schools.
If the Supreme Court rules that churches and church-run schools should be given taxpayer dollars, then should mosques, synagogues, and Buddhist and Hindu temples also receive their equal share of taxpayer dollars? What about Indigenous shamans, Wiccan covens, and Course in Miracles groups? How about nonbelievers (e.g., atheists, secular humanists, and agnostics) who are also working tirelessly for the environment, for human rights issues, and for better education of our children?
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