Supporters of Florida's Amendment 8 say the measure will
strengthen religious freedom protections, while opponents contend
it's a gateway to school vouchers. One analyst says both claims are
The Sunshine State's Blaine Amendment prohibits the spending
of any tax dollars on religiously affiliated institutions. But
Amendment 8, also known as the Florida Religious Freedom Amendment,
would guard institutions currently receiving government aid from
"This seeks to rid Florida
of that Blaine Amendment in order to make sure that effectively
existing programs, such as their state-funded pre-school program
that allows students to take vouchers to private schools … wouldn't
come under threat down the road from such an amendment," explains
Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation.
Instituted under President Ulysses S. Grant's administration,
the Blaine Amendments have outlived their usefulness, says Burke,
because they keep children trapped in failing schools.
"What it could do is show other states that yes, you can in fact
remove these onerous Blaine Amendments and you can put into place
voucher programs," Burke submits. "So it could act as a signaling
device for other states across the country that are interested in
expanding school choice options for students."
Thirty-eight of the 50 state constitutions currently include
Blaine Amendments -- language that was originally aimed at
keeping public monies out of Catholic schools. Florida will vote on
Amendment 8 next month.