Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Florida High Court Orders 2 Amendments On Church-State Off November Ballot

Only hours after oral argument on Wednesday morning, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order in Ford v. Browning, (FL Sup. Ct., Sept. 3, 2008) enjoining state officials from placing two constitutional amendments on the ballot. Amendment 7 would have deleted Florida's ban on use of public funds to aid any religious institution and would have provided that no one could be barred from participating in any public program because of religion. Amendment 9 would have in effect reversed a Florida Supreme Court decision barring private school vouchers, and would also have required that at least 65% of funds received by school districts be used for classroom instruction. The Supreme Court's order said that an opinion explaining its order would follow and that no motion for rehearing will be entertained.

All briefs filed and orders issued in the case are available here. ADL which was involved in the case issued a release endorsing the decision, saying that it indicates the Court agreed with its argument that the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission exceeded its constitutional authority in proposing Amendments 7 and 9. Americans United, likewise involved in the litigation, also issued a release praising the Court's action. (See prior related posting.)

In a second decision on Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court ordered off the ballot Amendment 5 which would have replaced school property taxes with other state funding. Florida Department of State v. Slough, (FL Sup. Ct., Sept. 3, 2008). [Thanks to Steve Sheinberg for the lead.]