Thursday, December 15, 2011

Florida Court Says Religious Freedom Amendment Ballot Language Is Misleading

Yesterday, a Leon County, Florida trial judge ruled off the 2012 ballot, at least temporarily, Florida's Amendment 7, the Religious Freedom Amendment.  In Shapiro v. Browning, (Cir. Ct. Leon Co. FL, Dec. 13, 2011), the court held that the a portion of the ballot summary language is ambiguous and misleading. The Amendment would repeal Florida's Blaine Amendment language that bars state aid to religious institutions and instead would permit religious institutions to participate in state programs on an equal basis with others. (See prior posting.) The language that the court found objectionable was the statement in the ballot summary that the amendment provides for participation in state programs by religious groups "consistent with the United States Constitution". In fact the amendment provides that the government may not deny participation to religious institutions "except to the extent required by the First Amendment."

The court's ruling however is subject to statutory mandate given to the state Attorney General to submit corrected revised ballot language within 10 days. (FL Stat. Sec. 101.161.)  The court upheld the constitutionality of the delegation of this authority to the Attorney General.  Yesterday's Palm Beach Post reports on the decision. [Thanks to FlaglerLive for the link to the decision.]