Contact: Nathan Bupp
Amherst, NY (July 13, 2010) -- The Florida Supreme Court on July 8 denied the defendants’ motion seeking review of the Council for Secular Humanism's recent appellate court victory in Council for Secular Humanism v. McNeil, a case challenging the use of Florida taxpayer dollars for faith-based substance abuse transitional housing programs in Florida prisons.
The Council, along with co-plaintiffs
Richard and Elaine Hull, initially filed suit in Leon County Circuit
Court in May 2007 challenging the legality of state laws authorizing
government payments to faith-based organizations for social services.
The specific payments in question are being made to two faith-based
organizations, Prisoners of Christ, Inc. and Lamb of God Ministries,
Inc., which are under contract with the Florida Department of Corrections
to provide faith-based services to individuals with substance abuse
problems. Richard and Elaine Hull, two associate members of the Council,
are Tallahassee residents and Florida taxpayers.
The Council based its challenge
on the Florida Constitution, which includes a "No-Aid" provision
mandating that no revenue of the state be provided "directly or
indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or
in aid of any sectarian institution."
In December 2009, a three-judge
panel of the Florida First District Court of Appeal unanimously reversed
a lower court ruling that dismissed the Council's lawsuit. The defendants
in the case immediately appealed the appellate court panel's decision,
asking the Florida Supreme Court to decide the issues in the case. This
latest decision from the state Supreme Court denying that appeal has
finally cleared the way for the case to proceed to trial.
“The Council intends to litigate
the case to completion,” said Derek C. Araujo, director of the Council’s
legal programs. “The Council's case will be an important test
of state courts' willingness to enforce ‘No-Aid’ provisions in state
constitutions. More than half the states have ‘no-aid’ provisions
similar to Florida's in their constitutions.”
Ronald A. Lindsay, president
& CEO of the Council and the Center for Inquiry, added, “We are
confident the evidence at trial will establish that state funds are
being used to support the efforts of Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of
God Ministries to advance and promote their religious views.”
The Council for Secular Humanism is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization promoting rational inquiry, secular values, and positive human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council, publisher of the bimonthly journal Free Inquiry, has a Web site at www.secularhumanism.org.