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

Religious Groups’ Ability to Deliver Emergency Aid Not at Risk in Florida, Say Secular Humanists

August 29, 2012

Council for Secular Humanism Refutes Misleading Assertions Made by Amendment 8 Proponents

Religious organizations providing emergency response services are in no danger of being prevented from receiving state assistance, despite the misleading assertions recently made by proponents of Florida’s Amendment 8, the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) said today. Only those entities that attempt to use those funds specifically to promote religion are in violation of state law, a protection now endangered by the potential passage of Amendment 8. 

A statement by a group known as “Citizens for Religious Freedom and Non-Discrimination” on Wednesday said, “Responders typically include religious groups representing different denominations, many of whom receive state funding, a long-standing partnership which will continue only if Florida ballot Amendment 8 passes in November.” The statement then cites legal action being taken by CSH which challenges the constitutionality of a state-funded substance abuse treatment program being carried out by religious ministries, and says, falsely, “This suit has the potential of putting every faith-based social service program here in Florida at risk.”

“The claims made by Citizens for Religious Freedom and Non-Discrimination are simply not accurate, and mischaracterize both our lawsuit and the potential effects of Amendment 8’s defeat,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president of the Council for Secular Humanism. “Our goal is merely to end state subsidy of religious indoctrination by sectarian organizations, not to prevent religiously affiliated groups from providing wholly secular services like emergency response. No group merely providing food aid, emergency relief, and the like is threatened by our lawsuit. Those who assert otherwise are either misinformed or being intentionally misleading.”

In 2007, CSH 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 complaint is based on the “No-Aid” provision of the Florida Constitution, which 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.” In 2010, the First District Court of Appeals for Florida concluded, “The overriding purpose of the [“No-Aid”] provision is to prohibit the use of state funds to promote religious or sectarian activities. Thus, to violate the no-aid provision, in addition to providing social services, the government–funded program must also advance religion.” The court expressly emphasized that the “no-aid provision does not create a per se bar to the state providing funds to religious or faith-based institutions.”

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The Council for Secular Humanism—housed at the Center for Inquiry—is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization promoting rational inquiry, secular values, and positive human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council, publisher of the bimonthly journal Free Inquiry, has a website at www.secularhumanism.org.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization based in Amherst, New York; 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.