Florida voters will decide this fall on Amendment 8, which would strip from the state constitution language prohibiting public funding for churches or other religious-affiliated groups.
The ballot question is likely to be one of the most contested of the 2012 election.
Supporters argue the amendment would protect church or religiously-affiliated charities which provide social services, such as prison ministries, soup kitchens or disaster relief efforts.
Opponents believe approving Amendment 8 would open the door for lawmakers to approve private school vouchers.
The constitutional amendment has its roots in a wave of anti-Catholic legislation approved by more than 30 states during the second half of the 19th century.
The ballot question, dubbed the Florida Religious Freedom amendment, asks voters this:
“Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
And would amend Article I, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution to read:
“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 individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.
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.”