This year in my beloved Florida, we will be voting on a whole lot of Amendments to our state constitution. Among them is Amendment 8, which basically is an attempt to funnel state funds to religious organizations. It attempts to say that it would only do so in accordance with the First Amendment, but of course there is no way to fund religious institutions without violating the First Amendment. And there’s also that religious institutions get to use this money without oversight, leading to things like the following tragedy.
The Tampa Bay Times has a report about how Christian religious exemptions for academies and homes have allowed for the humiliation and abuse of kids that are forced to be there.
In this state, unlicensed religious homes can abuse children and go on operating for years. Almost 30 years ago, Florida legislators passed a law eliminating state oversight of children’s homes that claim government rules hamper their religious practices.
The article goes on to list some of the horrible, violent, and humiliating things that these kids are forced to go through on a regular basis, and the state can do nothing about it because these groups claim their imaginary friend allows them to do this sort of stuff.
• The religious exemption has for decades allowed homes to avoid state restrictions on corporal punishment. Homes have pinned children to the ground for hours, confined them in seclusion for days, made them stand until they wet themselves and exercised them until they vomited.
• Children have been bruised, bloodied and choked to unconsciousness in the name of Christian discipline. A few barely escaped with their lives. In addition, in two settled lawsuits, a mother said her son was forced to hike on broken feet; a father said his son was handcuffed, bound at the feet, locked away for three days and struck by other boys at the instruction of the home.
• Adults have ordered children to participate in the punishment, requiring them to act as jailers, to bully troublemakers or to chase, tackle and sit on their peers.
• Teens have been denounced as sinners, called “faggots” and “whores,” and humiliated in front of their peers for menstrual stains and suspicions of masturbation.
• Parents share the blame. Some sign away their children for a year or more without first visiting a home or checking credentials. But state officials bear some responsibility because they have not warned the public about programs they believe are abusive.
Among the worst aspects of this is that these homes have been investigated, found to be participating in abuse, and have remained open. They, even now, receive some state funding in the form of McKay Scholarships.
On one hand, the parents who send their kids to these places are certainly to blame, but that doesn’t make the nauseating abuse that goes on there any less on the heads of the holy monsters who run them.
And if we make it easier to send state funds to places like this, more children will be abused that come from families who would love their kids to get a “Christian education,” but can’t currently afford it.
So if you’re in Florida, vote no on 8. This is not about religious liberty, it’s about allowing places that can brutalize children with no legal recourse to have more tax money than they already get. We can stop that from happening.