2008-08-26

Religion on the Ballot

My home state of Florida has earned a very negative reputation, some of it completely warranted, for electoral ineptitude. Most of the country is only aware of the issues in presidential elections, but there's a more serious problem with the general electorate and the amendments to the state constitution we vote on as ballot initiatives. Florida has passed the highest percentage of ballot initiatives of any state in the union. It seems the residents of the state are even less skeptical than even the average American and will approve almost any measure that doesn't immediately appear like a bad idea. The majority of initiatives concern taxation issues because the state legislature doesn't want to risk passing an unpopular measure which will hurt their constituents' wallets, and they have learned that Floridians foolishly tend to vote yes by default when they don't understand a proposal rather than demanding a clear explanation before they change the state's supreme law. The problem has become so bad that in 2006 we passed an amendment that requires a sixty-percent majority for all future amendments, ironically with only a 57.8% majority. I'm afraid that even this new threshold won't prevent two very destructive amendments on this year's ballot from passing.

Amendment 2 would explicitly ban same-sex marriage and civil unions:

Inasmuch as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.
Florida already has a statute against same-sex marriage, but proponents apparently want to make it even more difficult for homosexuals to be granted equal rights. Although there are indeed secular arguments against same-sex marriage, this is undoubtedly a religious issue. The secular arguments hold almost no sway among the nonreligious, primarily only among those who want rationalize their opposition based on either faith or simple bigotry. Every poll I've seen shows that the nonreligious support same-sex marriage by overwhelming margins.

Amendment 7 would repeal the constitutional prohibition on granting money to religious institutions:
An individual or entity may not be barred from participating in any public program because of religion and to delete 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.
I don't really know what the first clause entails, but it must sound good to most voters, so it may only be there to distract them from the main issue: school vouchers. This amendment was created after an earlier voucher program was thwarted in state court precisely on account of this law. Perhaps proponents even have in mind a state “faith-based initiative” program like the federal program. Whatever the case, it's very clear this is a step in the wrong direction.

With taxation amendments, the problem is that voters don't understand the meaning of the text and vote for them anyway. With these two amendments, citizens will have little difficulty understanding. It's their failure to appreciate the importance of church-state separation that will be the problem. I predict that both will pass in November, but I hope I'm proven wrong. Wherever you live, take the time to vote and make your voice heard!

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2 comments:

Evan Ravitz said...

Voters on initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: http://Vote.org. Also http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/ and http://cirwa.org

Jairo Mejjia said...

Unbelievers are right in most of their thinking

You might be one of those who are abandoning Christianity; or one for whom religious beliefs are not just irrelevant, but baseless. You might be right, at least to some extent. Some traditional beliefs are not true, and the “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. Most people don’t dare to confront their religious beliefs, opt for the status quo, or become marginalized.

Bishop John Shelby Spong says that “Christianity Reformed From its Roots – A Life Centered in God” “rightly points out that those who seek to defend Christianity’s past are also killing Christianity’s future.” I accepted the challenge of finding the One who may be recognized even by Gnostics and atheists: the Existence! Eminent philosophers and thinkers might give you an idea if this book might be an insightful reading for you (links below). You may look also at excerpts at Amazon.com.

Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
Retired Episcopal Priest
Carmel Valley, California

http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Grudzen.htm
http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Churcher.htm