Georgia's governor is pushing for an amendment to the state's constitution to allow for government funding of religion.
For more than a century, Georgia's Constitution has barred "direct or indirect" state funding of any religious organization, including schools. Gov. Sonny Perdue said in early October that his administration would offer a bill at the start of next year's legislative session including the proposed change.
Two-thirds of both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly would have to approve the proposal before it could be placed on the 2004 general election ballot. A majority of voters would then have to approve the changes to the Constitution.
In a press statement, Perdue said the amendment would allow religious groups to receive state funds to operate programs addressing social concerns, such as poverty and drug addiction.
"We need to amend the state Constitution to assure that these faith-based institutions can fulfill their missions," Perdue said at a gathering of business leaders in Atlanta.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in an Oct. 8 article that legal experts and state education officials argue that Perdue's proposed amendment would also allow the state to institute a private school voucher program.
"No matter how it's dressed up, it's still a thinly veiled attempt to remove any barriers to putting vouchers into place," said Mechuria Chase Williams, president of Georgia Association of Educators. "That is a slap in the face to public educators. We will be talking to our legislators."