Florida's Blaine Amendment Repeal

Florida's legislature is in the midst of repealing the Blaine Amendment, an amendment to their state constitution which bars state financial support of any religious denomination or institution.  They want to repeal it because it was originally rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry, and proponents of the repeal are upset that it means the state can't let funds go to religiously-affiliated hospitals, schools, and adoption agencies.  The new law would read:
Except to the extent required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, neither the government nor any agent of the government may deny to any individual or entity the benefits of any program, funding, or other support on the basis of religious identity or belief.
And is justified by a three-page-long list of "WHEREAS"es, like this one:
WHEREAS, religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, adoption agencies, and other benevolent institutions have been of longstanding service to the people of Florida and have provided numerous services to those in need, and
Which is all well and good, but the problem is, if an organization wants taxpayer money, they need to chuck their religious restrictions at the door and provide all the same services as the public schools/hospitals/adoption agencies.  This includes adoptions by same-sex couples (where that's legal, anyway; I seem to recall Florida passed a law against it, but I also seem to recall it was challenged in court, and don't remember the outcome?), adherence to scientific standards in school curricula (this means no creationism), and providing reproductive services like contraception and necessary abortions (at a minimum).    And religiously-based public service organizations are quite often loathe to do this. 

The idea behind allowing government funding to go to private, religiously-affiliated organizations seems to be based in avoiding redundancy and waste by simply funneling state/federal dollars to subsidize the religious hospitals, instead of having to keep open a competing public hospital in the same region.  But it's not a 1-to-1 conversion; government money handed to Catholic hospitals does not perform the same function that money would provide for if it were kept for a public hospital.  Witness official Catholic hospital policy that would rather let a woman die than perform an abortion to save her life, so long as a fetal heartbeat is present.  And I remember when I was in college, in Santa Cruz, and the hue and cry that went up when it was exposed that the only hospital nearby, without crossing the mountains to go into San Jose, was a Catholic hospital that refused to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.  Also a recent ruling in Washington state that a Catholic hospital is not bound to abide by the same employment non-discrimination laws as other businesses in the state.  Taxpayer money does not function the same when funneled to a religious organization, as it would if it were spent to support a public hospital.  And I fail to see why taxpayer dollars should go to subsidize services only selectively provided, according to the religious strictures of one particular religion to which not everyone in the demographic they're supposed to be serving is beholden.  Why should my healthcare options be restricted according to Catholic dogma, simply because I have the poor luck to live in an area where the only hospital is a Catholic hospital?  I'm not Catholic.

So.  Acknowledging a history of anti-Catholic bias?  Good step!  Religious freedom!  Etc!  But using that as a reason to spend taxpayer money supporting predominantly Catholic institutions that do not actually provide all the same services as the public equivalent would?  Bad!  Very bad!  And especially sucky for low-income areas without a lot of mobility, which is where Catholic hospitals are often to be found, and from which most people don't have the capacity to venture further afield in search of actually-comprehensive medical care!


VijiiS said...

In my theology class, we did a pretty decent length focus on things that are (and aren't) okay with Catholics in medicine, and while that's fine for a Catholic, I won't restrict myself to only medical options acceptable to Catholics.

Jadelyn said...

 Exactly.  Like, if a Catholic woman chooses to risk her life by carrying a pregnancy until the point of actual miscarriage rather than getting an emergency abortion, that's her prerogative.  But don't force me to abide by the same choice. 


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