Constitution Revision Commission Update

The following is a post sent in by Florida Citizens for Science board member David Campbell:

The Constitution Revision Commission has finished its committee work and has a slate of final proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution that it must vote on for final approval no later than May 10. Of special concern to Florida Citizens for Science members is Proposition 4 which will remove the following language (indicated by a strike through) from the Florida Constitution:

Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of Florida:

Section 3 of Article I of the State Constitution is amended to read:
ARTICLE I DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SECTION 3. Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. 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 legislature has devoted considerable effort over the years to get around this clause in order to divert general revenue to private, often religious, schools. The usual tactic is to create ways for individuals and corporations to donate money to scholarship programs and receive tax breaks in return. It’s sneaky but it has passed muster with the courts. Passage of this proposition will remove the last restriction at the state level to funneling our tax dollars directly to religious schools and institutions. Intelligent Design, strengths and weaknesses, alternative theories, and all the rest of the usual suspects in the world of nonscience will be taught using our tax dollars.

We need your help. Here is what you can do.

First, this is Proposition 4, not Amendment 4. Amendment 4 is the restoration of voting rights to felons amendment.

There is one more round of public hearings scheduled and they start February 6th. The current list is of meetings is can be found at http://flcrc.gov/Meetings/PublicHearings . The final votes on the various propositions must be taken by the commission no later than May 10th. The conservatives have the votes on the commission to approve it.

One strategy to fight this is to flood the regional meetings with opponents to Prop. 4. Invite like-minded friends. The more the merrier. Each citizen can speak for 120 seconds and must fill out a form prior to speaking. It is strongly recommended that you fill out the mandatory Public Hearing Appearance Record form in advance by downloading it from http://flcrc.gov/UserContent/Publications/PublicHearingAppearanceRecord.pdf This will allow you to avoid the scrum of people filling out forms by the door. Doors open one hour prior to the meeting and the sooner you turn in your form the sooner you will speak. Speakers are called in the order their cards are turned in. These hearings last six hours and the sooner you speak the sooner you can leave if necessary.

Bring two 8.5 by 11 inch sheets of construction paper, one green and one red, to the meeting with you. Clapping, cheering, or raspberries are not permitted at the hearings and will result in eviction. Audience members can raise the green paper following remarks by someone they agree with and the red one if they disagree. Those terrified of public speaking can show support with the construction papers or can simply walk up to the microphone and state their position on Prop 4.

You may have a long wait, especially if the opposition brings in busloads of supporters. Bring a book as meetings can run six hours. We may not (probably won’t) change the minds of the commissioners but at least they will know that there is strong opposition. You should also email commissioners to voice your opinion, preferably by copying and pasting email addresses instead of using the link on the website. Pen and ink letters are also encouraged. Names of all commissioners and addresses for sending electronic or snail mail are on the CRC website (link below).

Finally, it is extremely unlikely that the commission will vote this amendment down. It has been carefully and thoroughly stacked by the politicians who selected the members. With that in mind we must stay in this for the long haul to defeat it if (as seems likely) it is on the ballot in November.

More information is available from flcrc.gov .

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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