Florida Constitution and the Right to Freedom of Religion

By Rabbi Shapiro

Does the government have the right to speak out on the sale of tobacco products to minors?

Does the government have the right to speak out on the obesity epidemic in our country?

Does the government have the right to speak out on racism in our country?

The answer is firmly “No!” to each of the above questions! It may be making too much of a fine point, but we are all going to keep in mind that in a Democracy, the Government has no rights at all!! The People have rights, but the Government has only duties, obligations and responsibilities. Thus, the Government can and should speak out on the sale of tobacco products to minors, on the obesity epidemic in our country and on racism because it is the duty of the Government to do so. But the Government does not have the right to do so!

Again, this may seem like a semantic exercise in nitpicking, not worth the time to even discuss. But, as with many small tears in the fabric of our society, it will become larger and larger as we look forward to the next 24 months here in Florida.

Remember, when the People have rights and the Government has responsibilities, we have Democracy. When the People have responsibilities and the Government has rights, we have Fascism!

Coming our way between now and Election Day 2018 is the argument that the Government should have the right of Freedom of Religion.

It is the people that have the right of freedom of religion as enumerated in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and in Article 1 Section 3 of the Florida Constitution.

There will be an amendment on our ballot in November 2018 asking us to give the government the right to fund religious institutions. It will be up to the citizens of Florida to decide to give or withhold final approval.

At issue is Florida’s “No-Aid” clause, part of our State’s Constitution since 1885.
Article I
SECTION 3
Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Governor Scott is now assembling a “Constitutional Revision Commission” as required by law. Once every twenty years such a Commission has the opportunity to suggest changes to Florida’s Constitution and place those changes on the ballot for approval or rejection by the citizens of Florida. There is no legislative or judicial review involved.

The Commission, not yet formed, but whose leadership has been named, will argue that the “No-Aid” clause limits the Government’s right to support religious schools and other religious institutions!

Let’s not be taken in by this rhetoric and false model. Let’s protect ourselves from Government requirements that we support religious activities that are in opposition to our own beliefs!

Let’s begin by becoming familiar with Article I, Section 3 of our Florida Constitution and telling our friends and neighbors about the upcoming assault on the protections it provides each and every citizen of Florida!

This blog post was written by Rabbi Shapiro and reprinted here with permission

Holiday Displays in the Capitol building

The display by a Catholic organization was on the lobby floor near the entry way into the Capitol building. The First Coast Freethought Society display was on the fifth floor leading into the Senate chambers. In order to ensure there isn’t an appearance that the government is favoring one religion over another, all the displays should be together.   The Catholic display was put in a position to be seen by all visitors.  The First Coast Freethought Society’s display would only be seen by people visiting the 5th floor.  Why weren’t all the displays put together to demonstrate the plurality of Florida’s citizenry?

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