Friday, January 22, 2016

"No-Aid" Clause Not Violated By Faith-Based Social Service Contracts

In Center For Inquiry , Inc. v. Jones, (FL Cir. Ct., Jan. 20, 2016), a Florida state trial court upheld against constitutional challenge state contracts with religious organizations for substance abuse treatment and transitional housing for former inmates.  Plaintiffs contended that the contracts violate Art. I, Sec. 3 of the Florida Constitution which provides in part:
No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
The court disagreed, saying:
The No-Aid provision permits government contracts with religious organizations if the funds are not spent "in aid of" religion but rather to further the state's secular goals.... [T]he Program exists to promote the State's anti-recidivism and anti-addiction efforts, not religion. The Program is not "significantly sectarian": it permits some religious content only to the extent the content is offered in a nondiscriminatory and wholly optional and voluntary fashion. Further, the record shows that the program does not indoctrinate, require participation in religious ritual, or favor any one religion over another.
Becket Fund issued a press release announcing the decision.