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« on: December 23, 2004, 03:02:26 AM »

Fla. Senator Wants to Lift Religious Entity Funding Ban

by Jim Brown
December 22, 2004

(AgapePress) - A Florida lawmaker wants the voters to decide whether government money can be used to aid religious institutions.

Last month, a state appeals court declared Florida's school voucher program unconstitutional. The decision was based on a provision that bars the use of public money to "directly or indirectly" help sectarian institutions. State Senator Daniel Webster is hoping to put an initiative on the 2006 ballot that would repeal that provision.

Webster says he expects resistance to the measure to come from "the usual suspects," which include "the typical groups that oppose anything that would be considered faith-based." These groups, he contends, want to "basically secularize this country, and they want to remove all mention of God or any form of religious symbol even." In short, he says, the same groups that want a secular America "would be opposed to this."

According to the Florida legislator, the problem with the appellate court's ruling is that it is overly broad and would impinge on everything from the state's school voucher program to higher education and even health care in Florida. "It affects the historic black colleges," he notes, "which are also something we fund, and they are all religious-based. And it affects even Medicaid funding to faith-based institutions, such as the Baptist Hospital or others that are created, [such as] Holy Cross Hospital down in Broward County, which have a religious base to them."

Webster says these institutions and others like them are currently getting state dollars to carry on their valuable work. However, since the court's decision on the voucher program "didn't just apply to education," he says, the court's ruling on school vouchers could end up threatening the funding of these hospitals, colleges, and other facilities as well.

The lower court's voucher ruling is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Senator Webster's goal is to amend the State Constitution by repealing the provision that prohibits using public dollars to aid religious organizations.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion02018.shtml

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