Americans should have the right to believe (or not believe ) in God as the individual's right of conscience dictates. The government cannot compel anyone to attend, or refrain from attending, a religious service. In most cases, religious groups must abide by the secular law, although limited exemptions may be carved out in some cases. As advocates for religious freedom, we stand for the right of everyone to believe or not believe, but no one's religion should be an excuse to do harm to others.

PROTECT THY NEIGHBOR is Americans United's campaign to prevent the use of religion to discriminate against and otherwise cause harm to individuals. 

 

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 Letter from AU to the Florida Legislature

February 22, 2016
Senator Andy Gardiner
Senate President
Committee
409, The Capitol
404 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Re: SB 110 – Allowing for Discrimination Against All Floridians Who Wish to Marry
Dear Senator Gardiner:
On behalf of its Florida members and supporters, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, urges you to oppose SB 110. We agree that the state should not and, under the First Amendment, may not force clergy, houses of worship, and similar religious organizations to perform or host marriage ceremonies with which they have religious objections. Indeed, the First Amendment already allows, for example, a rabbi to refuse to marry an interfaith couple or a priest to refuse to solemnize a marriage for a divorced person. Unfortunately, SB 110 goes well beyond the rights already provided in the First Amendment and would permit organizations that operate a place of public accommodation to discriminate against Floridians.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value. It means that we are all free to believe or not as we see fit, but it does not mean that entities providing public accommodations can use their religion as a justification for denying the rights of others. Yet, this bill would allow organizations that are operated in connection to a religious organization to refuse to provide any marriage related services even if they are operating a place of public accommodation.
There are clear differences between a house of worship that hosts the weddings of its members and wants keep it that way and a religious organization that runs a commercial wedding hall that is open to the public to make money. In fact, the Florida Civil Rights Act already provides religious institutions with a broad exemption with respect to public accommodations.1
SB 110 would allow, for example, a religiously-affiliated university or other religious organization, including a commercial wedding chapel, that rents a banquet hall or chapel to the general public for weddings, to refuse services on religious grounds to a couple because they are
1 See Fla. Stat. §760.10(9) “This section shall not apply to any religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society which conditions opportunities in the area of employment or public accommodation to members of that religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society or to persons who subscribe to its tenets or beliefs. “
2
same sex, interfaith, previously divorced or of a particular faith. It is unfair to allow a commercial enterprise to reap the rewards of its business but then escape the nondiscrimination requirements placed on all other commercial businesses simply because it claims a religious affiliation.
The Florida legislature should not pass legislation that allows entities that operate a place of public accommodation to discriminate. For the reasons discussed, we urge you to oppose SB 110. Thank you for your consideration on this important matter.
Sincerely,
Amrita Singh
State Legislative Counsel

Public Funds for Religious Instruction?

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship channels tax payer dollars (perhaps $500 million next year) to religious schools, despite the prohibition in Article 1 of the Florida Constitution to do so. Is that OK? Well, in the 2012 election, a referendum item labeled Amendment 8 asked that very question – should public dollars be used for religious activities. The answer was a resounding and emphatic NO. The Florida Supreme Court also said NO. In 2006, it struck down the similar Opportunity Scholarship Program under Article IX of the Florida Constitution and left alone a lower court ruling that it also violated Article 1. The current Florida Tax Credit Scholarship simply relies on a different mechanism for channeling tax payer dollars to religious schools.

The Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA), the Florida Education Association, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the League of Women Voters of Florida, The Florida State Conference of Branches of the NAACP, a large number of Florida residents and “friends of the Court” oppose it. Just like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

So the Florida voters said NO in 2012 and the Florida Supreme Court said NO in 2006. No public funds to support religious instruction! Keep Church and State separate! If you agree, follow and friend us on Facebook (AU-Naples) and visit our website (www.au-naples.org). You might even want to join.

Thank you for making the ROB BOSTON PROGRAM A SUCCESS!

Jeb Bush Touts Voucher Program That Funds Christian Schools, Religious Right Ideology
Submitted by Peter Montgomery on Thursday, 9/17/2015 4:29 pm

At Wednesday night’s presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went out of his way to tout “a voucher program that was created under my watch, the largest voucher program in the country, where kids can go to a Christian school” — a phrase he sandwiched into a conversation about Donald Trump criticizing him for speaking Spanish in public.

Julie Ingersoll, a religious studies professor at the University of North Florida, tweeted a reminder that her book on Christian Reconstructionism, which was recently released by Oxford University Press, mentions Bush’s voucher program. “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism” includes chapters on the enormous influence of Christian Reconstructionism in the homeschooling and Christian school movements, which have succeeded in getting states like Florida to funnel taxpayer money to their religious education efforts

Christian Reconstructionism, grounded in the teachings of 20th-century writer R.J. Rushdoony, has greatly influenced both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its doctrine of “sphere sovereignty,” which states that God has given government, church, and family specific responsibilities over different “spheres.” Reconstructionists argue that there is no biblical authority for the government to take on a duty that is given to church or family – for example, they argue that the government has no role in caring for the poor because charity is the job of the church.

Reconstructionism teaches that education is the duty of parents, and that the state therefore has no role in or legitimate authority over the education of children. Reconstructionists led legal and political battles to win the right of parents to homeschool their children, and continue to resist efforts at regulating homeschoolers. As Ingersoll notes, “Reconstructionists are unabashedly committed to the dismantling of public education, and their strategies and solutions have gained a hearing far beyond the boundaries of the small groups explicitly affiliated with them.” In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named a right-wing homeschooler to chair the state’s Board of Education.

The organized and intensely active network of evangelical homeschooling families in Iowa is credited, in part, with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus, and the Associated Press reported this year that presidential candidates have been jockeying for its leaders’ support.

Ingersoll also explores how central creationism is to the Christian Reconstructionist worldview; as others have noted, creationism also forms the basis of “science” education in books and curricula used by some Christian schools and homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about the independent, Reconstructionism-inspired Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Florida, which was founded in the 1970s. In addition to the hundreds of students in its K-12 program, the school offers a program allowing homeschoolers to participate in courses and activities. Writes Ingersoll, “RCBS also has a program designed to take advantage of Florida’s school voucher plan. The plan, put into place by former Governor Jeb Bush, permits students at ‘failing public schools’ to obtain vouchers that can be used at any school.”

According to Ingersoll, the Bush voucher program “has become such a significant revenue stream” for Rocky Bayou Christian School that “it would have a major impact on the school if the state were to decide to discontinue the controversial program….” But, she notes, “the conservative legislature took up the effort to expand the state’s privatization of public education with vouchers and the expansion of charter schools.”

Indeed, legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year expanded voucher and tax-credit programs; it also, according to the Orlando Sentinel, created state-funded “personal learning scholarship accounts” that “parents of students with certain disabilities can use to pay for private school, buy home-school curriculum or pay for needed therapies, among other services, if their child is not in public school.”

Florida is not the only state where proponents of privatization have won victories. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal used the Katrina disaster to push through a radical privatization scheme and has battled the Obama administration over its efforts to monitor the state’s voucher program’s effect on racial segregation. Proponents of “school choice” had a major victory in Nevada this year, where a law pushed by an education foundation created by Jeb Bush would allow parents of any income level to “pull a child from the state's public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling.” While some Christian homeschoolers want no part of voucher programs, because they believe taking voucher money would bring more intrusive government regulation, laws like Nevada’s could prove a windfall for Religious Right and Christian Reconstructionist groups that provide curricula to homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about a 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit hosted by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado at an Indianapolis facility of Bill Gothard’s Institute for Biblical Life Principles, a troubling organization in the news recently for its connection to the Duggar family. The purpose of the summit, writes Ingersoll, was the development of a “Christian Education Manifesto,” which is no longer public, but whose goals included the elimination of public education and dismantling of government agencies that regulate the rights of parents, such as child welfare and child protective service groups.

There have been some setbacks for the privatization movement. In June, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that its state’s Choice Scholarship Pilot Program violates the state Constitution by channeling public money to private religious schools, contrary to an explicit constitutional prohibition on doing so.

But, as Ingersoll notes, the massively funded privatization movement is advancing the dream of the Christian Reconstructionists:

Florida’s efforts mirror attempts across the nation to shift the delivery of public education to the private sector; a shift of tax money from a public endeavor intended to educate and foster a shared sense of what it means to be American to sectarian efforts, including efforts at schools like Rocky Bayou which seek to transform society according to biblical law. The long-standing goal of the Christian Reconstructionists to defund, and ultimately eliminate, public education has come as close as it has ever come to being a reality.

- See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/…/jeb-bush-touts-voucher-prog…

Jeb Bush Touts Voucher Program That Funds Christian Schools, Religious Right Ideology


AU-Naples Chapter treasurer Bill Korson's Letter to the Editor of the NDN.

PUBLIC FUNDS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

According to a recent article in the MIAMI HERALD, Republican lawmakers in the Florida legislature “passed – as part of a massive “school choice” bill – a provision that will let . . . individual school board members . . . direct their dues to a new advocacy organization,” the Florida Coalition of School Board members. “The impetus (for the creation of this group) was the FSBA (Florida School Boards Association) previous participation in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship — a voucher-like program that helps poor children attend private school by giving tax breaks to businesses.” This program indirectly channels almost $500 million of PUBLIC funds to PRIVATE and/or RELIGIOUS schools. In fact, almost 80% goes to RELIGIOUS schools, a clear violation of the Florida State Constitution.

“Gov. Rick Scott has yet to sign the school choice bill … but in the interim, the (new) coalition will definitely receive ... $200,000 in state funding … thanks to a line-item secured in the 2016-17 budget. The money will help the (new) coalition set up virtual training for school board members, a version of which the FSBA already offers …”

According to the article, the “Florida Tax Watch said that lack of scrutiny should have merited a line-item veto…”

Two of our elected Collier County PUBLIC school board members support this new group and also support Tax-Credit Scholarships. I urge all Collier citizens to write to Ms. Donalds (donale@collierschools.com) and Ms. Lichter (lichteke@collierschools.com) and tell them that they should support policies and organizations that support PUBLIC schools, NOT PRIVATE and/or RELIGIOUS schools.


COLLIER SCHOOL BOARD REJECTS INVOCATION.

     Thanks to YOUR wonderful support, the Collier County School Board, at their November organizational meeting, voted 3-2 to reject beginning their meeting with an invocation and voted to continue beginning with a moment of silence.  Despite having overwhelming speaker support against the invocation, Ms. Donalds and Ms. Lichter still voted for the invocation.  Please continue to follow school board votes.       The emails of the school board members are listed below:
lichteke@collierschools.com;
curatoka@collierschools.com;
donale@collierschools.com;
spraguju@collierschools.com;
terryro@collierschools.com;
patton@collierschools.com