Religion-based claims are piling up against Florida’s 15-week abortion ban

Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple of Miami. Credit: Javierfv1212 via Wikimedia Commons

Legal complaints are stacking up against Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, all of them arguing that the law imposes a narrowly sectarian definition of when life begins upon other elements of the faith community that hold markedly different ideas about the matter.

The trend began in early June, when Barry Silver, a South Florida lawyer and former lawmaker turned rabbi, filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court challenging the abortion law as violating the religious rights of his Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Palm Beach County.

“In Jewish law, abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the act. As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” Silver’s complaint reads.

Then, on Aug. 2, came separate litigation, organized by the Jayam Law group, based in Chicago, raising similar claims in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on behalf of three rabbis and clergy associated with United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal, and Buddhist congregations.

These claims, like Silver’s, assert violations of freedom of speech and free exercise and enjoyment of religion under Article I Sections 3 and 4 of the Florida Constitution; the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

“Since time immemorial, the questions of when a potential fetus or fetus becomes a life and how to value maternal life during a pregnancy have been answered according to religious beliefs and creeds,” one of these lawsuits, filed on behalf of an Episcopal priest in that faith argues.

“HB 5 codifies one of the possible religious viewpoints on the question, and in its operation imposes severe burdens on other believers including Episcopalians and their clergy like plaintiff.” Read more

Florida special legislative session to include attack on Disney over its opposition to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Walt Disney World is among the properties that could be impacted by Florida legislation targeting its parent company over its opposition to Florida’s new “Don’t say gay” law. Photo: Wikipedia

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expanded the call of a special session on congressional redistricting opening on Tuesday to include “special districts,” including the one that gives The Walt Disney Co. governing authority over the parks and other developments it operates in Central Florida.

“Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968. And that includes the Reedy Creek improvement district,” the governor said during a news conference in The Villages in Central Florida.

He thanked House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who flanked him on stage, “for not only working for the reapportionment but for stepping up and making sure that we make the sunset determination on those special districts happen, which I think is very important,” DeSantis said.

The move would make good on threats by DeSantis and legislative Republicans to punish Disney for opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’ Say Gay” law which prohibits classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 or in a manner that is not “age-appropriate,” which lawmakers have said means students in older grades. The law itself is titled “Parental Rights in Education.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Screenshot: KXAN News.

DeSantis signed the measure into law on March 28 amid complaints it discriminates against LGBTQ people.

The Legislature authorized Reedy Creek in 1967, as Disney prepared to open Walt Disney World. According to the authority’s website, Its 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties encompass four theme parks, a sports complex, 175 miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterways, the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, plus water, natural gas, wastewater, sanitation, and electric utilities.


Disney attempted to sit out the controversy of the law while the Legislature debated it during the recently concluded regular session but, pressured by employees, ultimately came out against it and stopped campaign financial contributions in Florida.

“Do what you believe in, but understand, if you are out protesting this bill, you are by definition putting yourself in favor of injecting sexual instruction to five, six and seven-year-old kids. I think most people think that’s wrong. I think parents especially think that’s wrong,” DeSantis said on March 22.

Michael Moline is a reporter for the Florida Phoenix, which first published this report.