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Florida ruling kicks religious funding amendment off the 2012 ballot

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December 15, 2011

By Bailey Ludlam


TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Florida's statewide ballot for 2012 is one amendment lighter following a ruling made on Wednesday, December 14. However, in light of a 2011 approved law, the measure may return to the ballot shortly.

The lawsuit, filed in July 2011 by the Florida Education Association (FEA), argued that the proposed Amendment 7, a proposed religious funding amendment, had a misleading title and ballot summary.[1]

The proposed measure called for preventing individuals from being barred from participating in public programs if they choose to use public funds at a religious provider. Essentially, the measure moved to repeal the state's ban of public dollars for religious funding, also known as the "Blaine Amendment."[2]

On December 14 Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the legislatively-proposed measure would no longer appear on the 2012 ballot. Specifically, Lewis ruled that the phrase "consistent with the U.S. Constitution" was ambiguous and misleading. The phrase, Lewis said, implies that it would make the Florida Constitution conform with the U.S. Constitution's 1st Amendment.[3]

The lawsuit also challenged 2011 legislation that allows for the Florida Attorney General's office to rewrite ballot summaries or titles when the Florida Supreme Court removes a certified measure from the statewide ballot. Lewis rejected that challenge. "The law under review does not, after all, give the Attorney General authority to re-write the amendment itself -- only the description of it," Lewis said.[3]

Because the 2011 state law was not overturned, the Florida Attorney General still maintains the authority to rewrite the proposal. This must be done within 10 days.[3]

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