On Florida ballot, an issue over separation of church and state - FOX 13 News

On Florida ballot, an issue over separation of church and state

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Faith leaders are rallying against an amendment on the Florida ballot in November that they say would pave the way for government to fund religious institutions.

The issue: Opponents say it violates the separation of church and state.

As a Rabbi, Merrill Shapiro believes in religious education, but what he doesn't believe in is paying for someone else's religious education.

"Exactly," he said, "nor should anyone be forced into paying for someone else's religious education."

And that's exactly what he said everyone will be forced to do if Florida passes the so-called Religions Freedom Amendment.

Shapiro claims the ballot measure is a smoke screen designed solely to skirt a ban on taxpayer-funded religious education.

"Ultimately, Muslims will be paying for Catholic education, Catholics will be paying for Hindu education, and Hindus will be paying to educate Buddhists," Shapiro said.

He said Florida should play no role at all in religious education. Florida Rep. Steve Precourt disagrees, calling that discriminatory.

"It's discriminatory because those faith-based organizations are not allowed to compete on a level playing field," he said.

Precourt is a spokesman for the "Yes on 8 Campaign." He said education is a marketplace, and religious schools need to be treated the same as non-religious schools.

"They shouldn't be telling a group that just because you're faith-based organization you shouldn't be participating in the market," he said.

Supporters of the amendment say religious groups shouldn't be barred from doing what non-religious groups can do.

Shapiro and some other faith-based leaders say it's a violation of separation of church and state. He said secular groups can use tax dollars, but religious groups need to be kept separate.

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