The assaults on religious freedom and church-state separation by the Trump/Pence administration have fired up a base of already passionate Americans United supporters, and they are ready to fight back. This past weekend, I joined AU’s Field team, chapter leaders and supporters from North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee for a two-day training on grassroots organizing.
This year, Florida’s 37-member Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which meets every 20 years, is convening to review and offer amendments to the state’s constitution.
Some reports indicate that the CRC may repeal two constitutional provisions that provide protections for religious freedom and public education. As a result, Americans United encouraged Florida members, activists and supporters to fight back.
Today marks 100 days since Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent Betsy DeVos took over the reins as President Donald J. Trump’s Secretary of Education. If there’s one thing she’s accomplished in that time, she’s demonstrated her perseverance in pushing for vouchers.
A Florida bill that claims to protect public-school students’ right to religious expression violates the separation of church and state by opening the door to certain coercive religious activities that are prohibited, Americans United says.
The Florida Senate passed SB 436 by a party-line vote of 23-13 on March 23, and an amended version of the bill, HB 303, passed in the state House on April 7. The amended bill now heads back to the Senate, where legislators will decide which version of the bill, if any, passes.
Nearly 20 years ago, Betsy DeVos and her husband were the primary funders of an effort to strip the Michigan Constitution’s no-aid clause – the provision that ensures the government doesn’t funnel taxpayer dollars to religious institutions, including private religious schools. Their goal: remove the constitutional barrier to implementation of a private school voucher program.
Another year, another attempt to encourage proselytizing in public-school classrooms.
Last Thursday, the Florida Senate passed SB 436 by a vote of 23-13, almost entirely along party lines. A revised version in the House – HB 303 – will likely receive a floor vote in the House this week. Then the two chambers will duel it out over the two versions, or better yet, pass neither.
President Donald J. Trump today visited a private Catholic school that benefits from Florida’s tuition tax credit program – a voucher scheme that diverts taxpayer dollars away from public schools.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State opposes voucher programs, including tuition tax credits, because they funnel desperately needed funding away from public schools and into private, mostly religious schools that lack accountability and often perform no better – and sometimes worse – than their public counterparts.
President Donald J. Trump visited a Catholic school in Orlando today for what has been described as a “listening session” on “school choice.” In other words, a rally for private school vouchers.
Trump, kids in school uniforms, and claims about widespread success of a government program may make for good political theater. But, “alternative facts” and anecdotes are a terrible basis for policy. The truth is that vouchers masquerading as “school choice” are a failure.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Americans United and teachers’ unions don’t have the legal right to challenge a 15-year-old tax credit scholarship program that sends taxpayer money to private, often religious schools.
The Florida Education Association (FEA), Americans United and other groups argued that the voucher-like scholarships program violates the state constitution because it diverts public education money to private religious schools. But the Florida high court ruled that the groups that brought the case lack legal “standing” – that is, the right to sue.
A former court specialist is suing the Broward County, Fla., Clerk of Courts Howard Forman for terminating her after she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, a local Florida news station reports.
Yanicka Parker, who was employed by the Broward County Clerk’s Office for 12 years, is claiming religious discrimination in her lawsuit, Parker v. Forman, which was filed Sept. 16.