Letter: Amendment 8

Billy Atwell

Communications Director, Catholic Diocese of Venice

In the weeks leading up to the November elections, the Florida public is going to hear more about a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution called Amendment 8 — also known as the Florida Religious Freedom Amendment.

There exists a Florida law that prohibits public funds from being provided to faith-based institutions for social services, even though these funds would benefit all people, regardless of religion.

Amendment 8 would overturn that law and ensure that faith-based institutions are not discriminated against when public funds are available for social services such as shelter, food, medical care and more for the needy. After all, people of faith are taxpayers too, and that's where these funds come from.

Faith-based and private organizations often provide equal or higher quality and quantity services for less money than the government, thus lowering the cost to taxpayers and reigning in government bureaucracy. Some support the work of faith-based institutions, but disagree with these institutions accepting government money. They fear faith-based groups would become beholden to the mighty arm of government.

Shouldn't these groups be allowed to serve those in need and do what they do well? It is one thing to say faith-based groups shouldn't accept government dollars; it is entirely different to outlaw their eligibility for these funds.

The current law also flies in the face of religious freedom. Singling out capable social service providers simply because they are faith-based is fiscally unsound and, without a doubt, discrimination.

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