The Values Campaign? The Christian Right and the 2004 Elections

By John C. Green; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Florida
So Close and Yet So Far

KENNETH D. WALD

RICHARD K. SCHER

MATTHEW DESANTIS

SUSAN ORR

“He was a great lawyer, Dan'l Webster, but we know who's the
King of Lawyers, as the Good Book tells us, and it seemed as if,
for the first time, Dan'l Webster had met his match.”

STEPHEN VINCENT BENET “The Devil
and Daniel Webster” (1936)

LIKE HIS NAMESAKE IN THE CLASSIC SHORT STORY, FLORIDA'S DANiel Webster appears to be on the losing side of a pitched battle with the King of Lawyers. For the contemporary Daniel Webster, a Republican who chairs the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, Satan wears the guise of the state's 1885 constitution and the black-robed judiciary that enforces it. Webster's particular bete noire, Section 3 of Article 1, prohibits using state revenue “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” Fearing that such language might prevent churches and other religiously affiliated institutions from receiving state funds to implement Florida's new prekindergarten program, Webster is mulling an initiative campaign to remove the offending language from the Constitution (Date 2004).

Although Webster's animus against judges was occasioned by a mere possibility of action, the social movement he champions, the Christian Right, has long borne a grudge against state judicial authority. Time and again, the Florida movement has capitalized on its political power to enact policy goals via statute. More often than not, the victory has then been snatched away by judges who find the laws unconstitutional. It happened with a statue requiring parental notification of abortions by minor children, a state voucher program to fund private education, and now, Webster anticipates, with the legislature's plan to authorize religious instruction by

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