John G. Lynch, Naples
President, Naples Chapter
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Debating the bishop
I am writing in response to Bishop Dewane's opinion piece regarding Amendment 8.
The good bishop raises the fear that social service programs contracted by the State to religious organizations are threatened. But, our current constitution is no barrier to these partnerships. One of the proponents of Amendment 8 even acknowledged that religious organizations have gotten at least $400 million in taxpayer money over the last three years to perform social services.
Religious bodies do a great job at many of these endeavors, ranging from hospitals to care for the disadvantaged. There are but two caveats that they must observe when their services are funded by the taxpayers: They must not place a religious test on people who seek the services and they may not engage in trying to convert or preach to them. If they meet these conditions, they should have no fear of losing government contracts.
Bishop Dewane also claims that Amendment 8 has nothing to do with vouchers for private schools. But passage of Amendment 8 removes one large barrier in the effort to shift taxpayer money from public schools to sectarian religious schools.
Amendment 8 will not protect religious freedom. Instead, it will strip religious liberty protections from our Constitution.
Remember to review the meaning and intentions of Amendment 8 before you vote.