Background information on “No Aid” Clause

The purpose of No Aid Clauses is to ensure religious freedom. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, explained it well: “Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man,” not the taxing power of the state.

Similar constitutional provisions have been under attack around the country, in an attempt to funnel taxpayer money into the coffers of churches and private religious schools. Opponents of No Aid Clauses often argue that they are anti-Catholic, a mistaken argument that FFRF debunked in detailed written testimony to the Declaration of Rights Committee. In fact, states defended the “No Aid” principle long before the surge of anti-Catholic sentiment.

For example, New York City first attempted to create these nonsectarian or “common” schools in 1805. The nonsectarian schools, run by the Free School Society, would not be considered sufficiently nonsectarian by today’s (more evolved) standards. But the more important aspect of this period is that those nonsectarian schools were favored, on religious liberty grounds, over “sectarian” schools—including sectarian schools that were Protestant. Florida courts have recognized that “nothing in the history or text of the Florida no-aid provision suggests animus towards religion.”

The principle underlying No Aid Clauses dates to America’s founding and was uniformly accepted after years of experience. The early history of state-church separation in our federal government is clear to the Supreme Court: “for the men who wrote the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment the ‘establishment’ of a religion connoted sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity.” State legislatures, one by one, repudiated laws that would raise public funds and direct them toward houses of worship. This was a core foundational principle to protect religious liberty, but its importance has been largely forgotten.

Given the recent assault on No Aid Clauses, it is crucial to make the Constitution Revision Commission understand that many Floridians value state/church separation and do not want this important protection removed. Please urge the Commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee to vote against Prop 4 during the public comment portion of their hearing next Wednesday, Nov. 29.

Freedom From Religion Foundation