Faith-based charities settle lawsuit with Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida officials have reached agreement with the Association of Faith-Based Organizations, amending the rules governing Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign to protect the constitutional rights of faith-based charities. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society filed suit last April alleging that the rules governing the campaign wrongfully excluded faith-based charities.
“Civil servants should not be prevented from donating their own money to faith-based charities if they choose to do so,” said Casey Mattox, litigation counsel for CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.
Florida’s State Employees’ Charitable Campaign is a state-operated program in which state employees voluntarily contribute payroll deductions to participating charitable organizations. However, rules governing the program prohibited any organization engaging in any activity that is “primarily religious” in nature from participating.
Under the agreement, Florida officials have adopted new regulations to ensure religious charities, like AFBO’s members, will not be excluded because of their religious viewpoints or activities. Faith-based charities will also retain their constitutional and statutory rights to select staff members who agree with the religious beliefs of the respective organizations.
“The settlement we’ve achieved will protect the constitutional rights of faith-based organizations and state employees who choose to contribute to their work,” Mattox explained. “We applaud the state for working with us to protect these rights.”
ADF and CLS attorneys filed the complaint in Association of Faith-Based Organizations v. Lewis in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division, on April 25.
AFBO is an association of religious charities seeking to protect the constitutional freedom of religious organizations to staff and select members on a religious basis. AFBO is comprised of social service providers, educational institutions, membership associations, and advocacy outreach organizations, including the Christian Legal Society and other non-profit organizations.