Merrill Shapiro Response to Tampa Tribune Editorial

Letters to the editor: Religious freedom?

Published: January 7, 2015

Religious freedom?

In your Jan. 3 editorial “Encouraging voucher victory” you mention that you fail to see how Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship scheme violates the separation of church and state. I became a plaintiff in this case on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State because this program thumbs its nose at some core values of our country’s democracy as expressed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I of the Florida Constitution.

Four dollars out of every five spent by this program sends children to religious schools. Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship forces Tampa Tribune readers and some 5 million of our state’s Catholics to pay for the religious education of thousands of Seventh Day Adventist students while Florida’s 1.8 million Baptists are paying for the religious education of scores of Muslim students. More than half-a-million Evangelicals in our Sunshine State are paying for the religious education of Episcopalians, while the state’s 600,000 Jews are supporting curricula that teach that “God does not hear the prayers of Jews.”

The Tribune itself is paying taxes to make up the loss the state treasury incurs when other corporations walk away with fat credits. Thus, the cost of educating some of these children that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah is borne by your company. You help pay to educate some of the children in this program that the Earth is but 10,000 years old. You are making it possible for some students to learn that the slavery in the U.S. was a good thing, bringing pagan blacks from Africa to these shores where they could be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Is this the kind of religious freedom you feel Floridians should have?

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

Palm Coast

The writer is president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State National Board of Trustees.

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