LEESBURG (FBW)—The State Board of Missions voted unanimously Sept. 21 to support two state constitutional amendments seeking to prevent abortion funding and to protect religious freedom of organizations providing social services.
The support comes in the form of endorsements of Amendment 6 (abortion) and Amendment 8 (religious freedom) and a $10,000 contribution to each political committee promoting the measures on the November general election ballot.
Both amendments were placed on the ballot by passage of bills during the 2011 session of the Florida Legislature.
Florida Baptist Convention staff recommended support of the amendments after meeting recently with Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsored the constitutional amendment barring the use of public funds for abortions, which was approved by the House, 79-34, and the Senate, 27-12. Baxley is a member of The Vine Community Church, a Southern Baptist church plant in South Ocala.
The measure also would prevent the Florida Constitution from being interpreted more broadly than the U.S. Constitution when it comes to abortion issues. The privacy clause in the Florida Constitution has been successfully used in the past to challenge abortion restrictions.
John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer, told the State Board of Missions, “I cannot imagine” Baptists wouldn’t support the pro-life amendment. “We hope that it actually passes, pray that it will and should work that it will,” he said.
Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights, the group supporting passage of Amendment 6, is led by Randy Armstrong, a medical doctor and longtime member of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
“Amendment 6 does three things: prohibits the use of public funds for abortion, with exceptions; aligns Florida law and federal law, which prevents taxpayer funding of abortion; and perhaps of greatest importance, paves the way for new legislation to restore parental consent in the case of a minor seeking an abortion,” said Armstrong, according to background material provided to the State Board.
Bill Bunkley, president of Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Florida Baptist Witness passage of Amendment 6 would restore parental authority.
“No longer will some parents get that phone call from a hospital emergency room informing them for the first time of their daughter’s abortion complications,” he said.
Bunkley said voters should not be fooled by an expected “barrage of untruthful advertising … by those in the abortion business who stand to gain financially.”
The religious freedom constitutional amendment would remove language from the state constitution barring state dollars from going to religious institutions. Known as the “Blaine Amendment,” the language has been in the state constitution since 1885, and reads: “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.”
In place of the current language, Amendment 8 would provide 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 to 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.”
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