Council for Secular Humanism v. McNeil

Council for Secular Humanism v. McNeil, Case No. 2007-CA-1358 (Leon County Circuit Court)

CASE SUMMARY

CSH has filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court challenging the legality of statutes authorizing payments to two faith-based organizations, Prisoners of Christ, Inc. and Lamb of God Ministries, Inc, for services provided to the Florida Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections' contracts with the organizations stipulate that Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of God Ministries will receive public money for providing faith-based services to individuals with substance abuse problems. Also joining CSH in the lawsuit are Richard and Elaine Hull, two associate members of CSH. The Hulls are Tallahassee residents and Florida taxpayers.

CSH's complaint is based on the Florida Constitution, not the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. CSH made a deliberate decision to seek relief under the Florida Constitution, because it has a very broad prohibition on aid to religious institutions. Specifically, the "No-Aid" provision of the Florida Constitution, Article I, Section 3, expressly mandates that no revenue of the state can be provided "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

After CSH survived a motion to dismiss, the trial court granted the defendants' motions for judgments on the pleadings in September 2008. The trial court judge acknowledged that this lawsuit represents a case of first impression, with no previous Florida court ruling providing any clear guidance on the exact significance of the state constitution's no-aid provision.

In December 2009, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's decision in part, remanding the case for further proceedings.  In December 2009 and January 2010 the parties briefed the defendants' motion to rehear the case en banc before First District Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal denied the defendants' motion for a rehearing in April 2010. 

The defendants moved for the Florida Supreme Court to decide the legal issues in the case.  The state Supreme Court denied that motion in July 2010, finally clearing the way for the case to proceed to discovery and litigation in the trial court.

Visit this site for periodic updates on the status of the case.