Catholic Bishops of Florida Pleased with Florida Legislature’s Passage
of Religious Freedom Act
Tallahassee, FL – Following approval by the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate today approved HJR 1471, the Religious Freedom Act, proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support.
If approved by the voters in November 2012, the resolution will protect existing and future legislatively enacted programs vulnerable to court challenges that fund essential services provided by faith-based entities for the benefit of all Floridians. These include: educational scholarships for disabled and low income; healthcare, eldercare and indigent care; housing assistance for the homeless and disabled; food programs for the poor; faith-based prisons and disaster services.
“The legislature’s passage of the Religious Freedom Act is a critical first step toward safeguarding health, education and social service programs in which Floridians benefit through the participation of faith-based providers,” said Michael Sheedy, associate director for health. “The State must not favor particular religious groups over others but neither should our Constitution require discrimination against religious institutions.”
Just as we are called to serve our neighbor, Catholic institutions are committed to serve all residents of Florida regardless of religious belief through our education, health care and social service ministries. All Floridians, particularly the vulnerable and in need, deserve the opportunity to benefit from programs with a secular purpose provided by religious organizations.
The bishops express appreciation to resolution sponsors, Rep. Scott Plakon and Senator Thad Altman, and all legislators who joined with them to pass the Religious Freedom Act.
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The Florida Catholic Conference is an agency of the Catholic Bishops of Florida. It speaks for the Church in matters of public policy and serves as liaison to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The archbishop and bishops of the seven (arch)dioceses in Florida constitute its board of directors.