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Budget line item only for Jewish schools raises some questions

Posnackcop

@kyragurney and @amysherman1

Following a wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions across the country, Florida lawmakers have taken unprecedented action to bolster security at Jewish schools in the state.

Legislators — both Republicans and Democrats — were eager to comply with a request to help secure Jewish schools following months of news reports showing children and adults evacuating from schools and other places in response to threats in Florida and other states.

But the line-item in the budget has raised some questions about government dollars earmarked to help schools serving just one religion.

Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, told the Miami Herald that while responding to violent threats made against religious minorities is extremely important, the budget item raises constitutional questions.

“The fact that the funding singles out one religion raises serious concerns about unconstitutional discrimination, whether intentional or not,” she said in a written statement. “Many groups are seeing a spike in violent threats in recent months – not only Jews, but also Muslims, Sikhs, and immigrants. If the state sees responding to these threats as a priority public safety issue, funding should be available to all similarly targeted groups.”

It’s unknown if the ACLU plans to pursue any action because it doesn’t typically comment on hypothetical future litigation.

Florida’s budget allocation appears to be unusual. The Orthodox Union — an Orthodox Jewish group that helped draft the budget request through an affiliated project called Teach Florida — has championed similar legislation in other states this year, but those bills would make funding available to other types of private schools as well. Legislation the group helped draft in Maryland, for example, would make security funding available to schools and child care centers deemed at risk of hate crimes or attacks.

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