Florida Supreme Court: Vouchers unconstitutionally divert public school funds
The Florida Supreme Court today ruled 5-2 that the state's Opportunity Scholarships Program (OSP) violates the Florida constitution, which requires "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education."
The program "diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools that are the sole means set out in the Constitution for the state to provide for the education of Florida's children," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the majority . "This diversion not only reduces money available to the free schools, but also funds private schools that are not 'uniform' when compared with each other or the public system. In sum, through the OSP the state is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the constitutional mandate for a uniform system of free public schools."
While this will have an effect on Florida's religious private schools that have participated in the statewide voucher program, the court didn't rule on whether the program violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion. That claim was part of the original lawsuit against the voucher program, but the program opponents dropped it after the Supreme Court's 2002 decision supporting Cleveland's voucher system.
But opponents did continue to assert that the voucher system violated the Florida constitution's section separating church and state. "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," says the state's constitution in what is known nationally as a "Blaine amendment." The Florida Supreme Court decision merely states that it "neither approve[s] nor disapprove[s]" the claim, and that it is "an issue we decline to reach."
The Institute for Justice, which argued on behalf of the voucher system, says the decision "is a serious blow to equal educational opportunity and the schoolchildren of Florida," but that the victories the group has seen nationally outweigh the blow to the movement. "Just this past year, new school choice programs were passed in Utah and Ohio, and programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Arizona and Pennsylvania continue to flourish," attorney Clark Neily says in a press release.
Sun-Times: Pope's first encyclical will reclaim eros love
Looks like Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter Cathleen Falsani scooped even National Catholic Reporter's John Allen on the subject of Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical. It was widely reported that the title would be Deus, Caritas Est, ("God is Love"), but Chicago's Francis Cardinal George tells Falsani that the point will be to rescue eros love from secular connotations. Falsani reports:
Agape is a Greek word, referring to unconditional love, the kind Catholic doctrine teaches God has for humankind. Eros was the Greek god of love, and his name has come to refer to sexual love or desire.
In the mid-1900s, Anders Nygren, a Lutheran bishop from Sweden, published a book called [Agape and Eros], in which he concluded that agape is the only truly Christian kind of love.
"In a kind of Lutheran fashion, he distinguished between agape, the love of God in us, which is good; and eros, which is our own erotic life and desire, which turns us away from God," George said. "He said that in English 'love' is ambiguous and you have to distinguish between these two. And you do.
"What the pope is going to do is to try to save eros. That is to say that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves. The distinction between agape and eros is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."
George warned that he has not yet seen the encyclical, but has only "seen comments" about it, and has been asked by Pope Benedict to deliver an address about the encyclical to the pontifical council Cor Unum in a few weeks.
Prayer in the Indiana House:
- It's a prayer, it's a protest | Following a plan carefully crafted, lawmakers bow heads before opening gavel (The Indianapolis Star)
- Private prayers open session | Bosma renews vow to fight judge's limits in House (The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)
- Ind. House Speaker refuses to defy judge's prayer ruling | Rejecting requests to defy a judge's order banning the use of Christ's name in legislative prayers, Indiana's speaker of the house said that instead of opening the 2006 session with a "government-approved" prayer, the house of representatives would have no formal prayer at all (Baptist Press)
- Also: Panel okays 'In God We Trust' plate | The Indiana House Roads and Transportation Committee approved a bill today that would create an "In God We Trust" license plate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, who said he has at least 1,000 petitions requesting the new license plate (The Indianapolis Star)
Justice Sunday 3:
- Minister, a Bush ally, gives church as site for Alito rally | Herbert Lusk, a maverick black minister, has offered his church to host a political rally for Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. (The New York Times)
- Santorum to join conservative Christian rally for Alito | In a step that could shore up support from his conservative base but might carry political risks, Sen. Rick Santorum will speak Sunday at a controversial conservative Christian rally bolstering support for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on the eve of the judge's confirmation hearings (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
ID, creationism, and Darwinism:
- Lack of appeal angers some | Many wanted a higher court to rule on Dover's intelligent-design case (York Daily Record, Pa.)
- 'Dodos' circling around I.D. | Film explores intelligent design-evolution 'circus' (Lawrence Journal-World, Kan.)
- Attorneys in I.D. case spread message | Fresh from the victory over the teaching of intelligent design in Dover, Pa., schools, attorneys in the high-profile case plan to make Lawrence one of their first speaking stops (Lawrence Journal-World, Kan.)
- Creationism can have deadly impact | Denying evolution happens not only stifles the scientific thinking of students but also sets them back as would-be researchers in the biological sciences and public health (Dominic A. Sisti, York Daily Record, Pa.)
- Colorado Christian University backed in lawsuit over aid | The Department of Justice is siding with Colorado Christian University in its federal lawsuit against the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, arguing that CCU should be allowed to participate in state financial aid programs (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- San Diego to allow Good News Clubs to meet in city schools | Federal judge, attorneys work to finalize details of settlement agreement permitting after-school Bible clubs (Associated Press)
- Earlier: Scouts, Bible groups can use schools | S.D. district reverses stand on free meetings (San Diego Union-Tribune, Oct. 29)
- Surprising opinions on sex education | Across-the-board support as a way to slow state's growth (San Francisco Chronicle)
- EU challenges Vatican's draft abortion treaty | Pope proposes conscience opt-out for Slovakia (The Guardian, London)
- The forgotten figures in the abortion debate | If women do have rotten experiences when having abortions, that should not be used against them, or those who come after them, especially when we do not know why (Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Kirkland teens charged with church arson | Two boys have been charged with arson for allegedly tossing fireworks through a church window in Kirkland and igniting a fire that caused more than $304,000 in damage (King County Journal, Wa.)
- Man charged in Mormon shootings | Investigators believe the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have been shot because they witnessed a crime, but they released no other details (The Virginian-Pilot)
- Slaying of elder not linked to hate, religion, police say | Police on Tuesday were trying to determine whether two LDS Church missionaries were shot Monday because they had witnessed another crime (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)
Prominent Baptist pastor arrested for lewdness:
- Pastor arrested on lewdness complaint | Alleges abuse, setup (KWTV, video)
- Police arrest pastor on lewdness complaint | Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was arrested Tuesday on a complaint of offering to engage in an act of lewdness (The Oklahoman)
- Tulsa pastor arrested in OKC | A prominent Tulsa pastor was arrested on a lewdness complaint Tuesday night in Oklahoma City (Tulsa World, Ok.)
- Southern Baptist minister arrested in Tulsa | Nashville-based denomination won't comment (The Tennessean)
- Statement from church (South Tulsa Baptist Church)
- Statement from convention (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma)
- Church battles in court | Breakaway congregation lays claim to property (Times Herald-Record, Middletown, NY)
- Moral divide: Area church leaves national group | The United Church of Christ's endorsement of same-sex marriage this summer may have been a first for American mainline Protestantism. It was also the last straw for Suffolk Christian Church (The Virginian-Pilot)
- St. Mary's Cathedral to remove swastikas | Some have never noticed them. Others want to get rid of them. But one thing is for sure: Everyone has an opinion about them (St. Cloud Times, Minn.)
- Richard Land fills in for Tusculum Hills | Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, is the new interim pastor at Nashville's Tusculum Hills Baptist Church (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Religion Today: "How the Other Half Worships" | Camilo Jose Vergara has spent the last three decades taking his camera to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, documenting places few outsiders ever visit (Associated Press)
- Christian students 'on fire for God' at Nashville conference | These college students are not ashamed to be called sellouts. They are sold out for Christ. (Jackson Sun, Tenn.)
- College Christians persevere in campus atmosphere of decadence | In Nashville, the sellout crowd of 18,000 young adults at the Passion '06 conference indicates Christians in college aren't lacking for the company of fellow believers (Associated Press)
Book of Daniel:
- TV station won't air show featuring Jesus | An Indiana television station is refusing to air a new NBC series that features Jesus Christ as a supporting character, citing complaints from viewers (Associated Press)
- NBC affil drops Daniel | In its place, WTWO will air the movie Simon Birch (Broadcasting & Cable)
- Another Nexstar station closes Book | A second Nexstar station, KARK Little Rock, Ark., will preempt the Friday night premiere of NBC midseason drama, The Book of Daniel (Broadcasting & Cable)
- Statement issued regarding pre-emption of "The Book of Daniel" | "If my action causes people in our community to pay more attention to what they watch on television, I have accomplished my mission." (WTWO)
- Ancient village discovery raises questions | Discovery of an ancient village just outside Jerusalem has brought into question one of the strongest images of biblical times the wholesale flight of Jews running for their lives after the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Associated Press)
- A preacher's journeys over the color line | Remembering Francis Asbury (Eugene Scheel, The Washington Post)
- Christmas comes again | For Orthodox Christians, the celebration is just beginning (Detroit Free Press)
- If Christmas decorations stay, bad luck on its way! | While it may seem strange that superstitions surround a supposedly Christian festival, the customs belong to a pagan tradition that existed before Christianity (The Korea Herald)
- Religion news in brief | Russian Orthodox Church breaks with Church of Sweden, Muslim leader urges halt in Temple Mount excavations, threats force Muslims to move youth retreat from Presbyterian camp, and other stories (Associated Press)
- Top US Indian court upholds first gay marriage | The top court of the Cherokee Nation has declined to strike down a gay marriage in what is seen as a pioneering case in American Indian country, the couple and officials said on Wednesday (Reuters)
- Another man in black visits Folsom prison | Tuesday's event might have looked like a Hollywood publicity stunt, but it actually began with an invitation from a religious outreach group called the Prison Fellowship, whose leaders felt that "Walk the Line" might inspire inmates with its story of redemption (The New York Times)
- Religion loses out to belief in paranormal | People are more likely to believe in ghosts and the paranormal than have faith in an organized religion, a new survey has found (Edinburgh Evening News)
- Evangelical's spat with Jewish activist goes public | A colorful war of words has erupted between a national evangelical leader and the Jewish activist who is suing the federal government over alleged Christian religious coercion at the U.S. Air Force Academy, after a friendly e-mail exchange between the two turned sour (Forward, Jewish newspaper)
- Thousands expected to hear faith healer Hinn at arena | Critics abound, but others believe they'll see the power of God today and Friday (Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)
- When the miracle doesn't happen | Hope based on a particular outcome can be smashed by events. Hope based in a loving God can endure (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet)
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