Is a Florida Church Acting Illegally?

Apropos the fight over excellent science education (as opposed to creationism) in Florida schools, is it OK for a church, which I presume has religious non profit status, to engage actively in an attempt to sway elected officials?

Regarding the State Board of Education meetings to discuss this issue in Florida ...

Also present at the Tampa SBOE meeting was Terry Kemple, member of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon where he is a leader of the church's Community Issues Committee. Kemple told the Witness his church has been informing its members about the science standards and encouraging members to pray and take action.

Kemple distributed to SBOE members a letter and legal memorandum by attorney David Gibbs and curriculum expert Francis Grubbs critiquing the science standards.

"We are concerned about the scientific accuracy of the Florida standards and also about the potential some of these proposed terms might have for requiring only one particular belief system in Florida classrooms, which would be an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause," write Gibbs and Grubbs....

[source]

(More on this memorandum later)

There are indications that these documents are the basis for such resolutions as that passed recently by one Florida school board. In that case, the comment was made that the resolution ... to water down the role of evolutionary biology in the teaching of life science and leave open the possibility of discussing creationism ... was as close to violating the case law established recently in Dover without actually going over the line.

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The church in this case seems to be acting within the law. If they attempted to influence an election, that would be crossing a line which would (well, should) cost them their tax-exempt status.

However, Florida's "Sunshine Law" requires most public officials to refrain from discussing official business with each other except in public venues, well-publicized in advance. The sudden appearance and quick approval of several of these creationist resolutions indicates that various school board members may indeed be acting illegally.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 20 Jan 2008 #permalink

was as close to violating the case law established recently in Dover without actually going over the line.

I doubt that. The resolutions I have seen have not mandated instruction in Creationism in the local district, but have instead called for delivering their opinions to the state board.

By Virgil Samms (not verified) on 20 Jan 2008 #permalink