PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
E-mail: press@centerforinquiry.net

CFI Asks Florida Court: Stop Public Funding of Christian Rehabilitation Program

May 14, 2015

The Center for Inquiry has filed a motion for summary judgment with Leon County Circuit Court in its suit to stop the public funding of explicitly religious rehabilitation programs for former prison inmates. The motion maintains that because there is no genuine dispute that the funded entities are ministries that promote religion, the funding blatantly violates the Florida Constitution, and the court should rule in favor of CFI without the need for trial.

Lamb of God and Prisoners of Christ are two self-described ministries that provide substance abuse rehabilitation services to former inmates in the state of Florida—ministries complete with pastors in their employ. Their rehabilitation methods are based on biblical principles and Christian teachings. Their use of the funds they receive via the Florida Department of Corrections are not monitored by any government overseer, as public money and private donations are commingled in a common bank account, and are used for both general expenses and explicitly sectarian ministerial activities.

CFI is arguing that Florida’s actions are in violation of the state’s Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 3, which provides for a separation of church and state even more explicitly than the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating specifically that no money can be taken from the public treasury and given “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution. 

“Lamb of God and Prisoners of Christ both openly describe themselves as Christian ministries, and engage in explicitly sectarian religious practices,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “The people of Florida shouldn’t have their tax dollars used for religious purposes. Not only is that wrong in principle, but the Florida Constitution expressly prohibits the funding of religious institutions and activities. That money would be far better spent on secular, evidence-based rehabilitation programs. We trust that the court will see what a clear-cut case this is, and rule in our favor.”

The Council for Secular Humanism (a program of the Center for Inquiry) initially filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court in 2007. After some procedural maneuvering, the case was then refiled in 2008, only to be dismissed by the trial court. In 2010, the First District Court of Appeal reinstated the case. The defendants then asked the Florida Supreme Court to reverse this decision, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. Motivated in part by this lawsuit, a ballot initiative in 2012 sought to repeal the state constitutional provisions banning the public funding of religion, but was rejected by Florida voters.

The motion for summary judgment is available at http://bit.ly/CFIFloridaMSJ

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.