At a time when the national political debate is dominated by questions of religious freedoms, dueling headlines on the Miami Herald’s website underscore how self-described defenders of faith are often only interested in promoting freedom for some and not for all
In a lopsided 88–27 vote, the chamber okayed a bill to allow any student to deliver “inspirational messages,” including religious prayers, at public-school events. “Look at what just happened in Ohio,” one lawmaker said, referencing the recent school school shooting there. “The kids need to have prayer at school.” Another explained the need by citing the “sex, gambling and all of the moral decay that’s on our televisions and radios.”
The ACLU and Anti-Defamation League believe the bill violates the separation of Church and State and have threatened legal action. Meanwhile, the other bill bans the use of “foreign law,” with an implicit focus on the supposed dangers of Sharia. When asked, the bill’s sponsor couldn’t point to a single cases in Florida in which a judge ruled on Sharia, but said the state needs to “jump in front of the problem.”
Civil libertarians and Jewish lawmakers are also outraged by the measure, as it may “void divorces mediated through Jewish tribunals.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Florida is fighting back. “The alleged threat of Islamic or other religious or foreign law to Florida’s court system is completely illusory, and the Senate’s consideration of this measure is an unwise use of resources,” said ADL’s Andrew Rosenkranz.
Carin Marie Porr, of the Florida Bar Association, pointed out that Florida law “already refuse to support the laws of another state or country that contradicts our public policy,” saying the anti-Sharia bill “clearly goes against the fundamental rights of the people of Florida.”
While neither bill explicitly targets any religion, the school prayer bill was pushed by evangelical Christians and will likely be used by them most, while the anti-Sharia law clearly targets Muslims and may be based on xenophobia.