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Florida judge asked to recuse herself because she’s Catholic

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Dempsey-21A group called Fund Education Now wants a state circuit court judge to recuse herself from an education dispute because she’s Catholic.

Citing her own independent research, Kathleen Oropeza, the group’s president, filed a motion in an ongoing lawsuit in which she explains that Judge Angela C. Dempsey is unable to be impartial because of her association with Catholic “interests” and “her relationship with Catholic doctrine.”

The legal posture is the latest in a nearly five-year slog aimed at increasing public school spending.

The plaintiffs, an assembly of activist groups and private individuals, allege state government has failed in its constitutional duty to provide enough funding to establish a high-quality public education system. As a result, student performance has suffered, they say.

“This suit is to redress the deprivation of rights and privileges secured to plaintiffs by Article IX, Section 1 of Florida’s Constitution.”

Oropezo’s distrust of Dempsey stems from a categorical opposition to privately funded school choice scholarships, or vouchers, that afford economically disadvantaged children an opportunity to leave traditional public schools for private schools — many of which are Catholic.

“I do not believe Judge Dempsey can be impartial in determining whether Florida’s private voucher programs are unconstitutional, and I believe that she should no longer serve as the judge to decide the issues in this lawsuit,” Oropeza concludes.

As evidence, Oropeza points to Dempsey’s membership and board service with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, a socially active ministry, and a past speaking engagement at a Leon County private Catholic school that happens to accept tax credit scholarships for poor students.

Other alleged disqualifying factors outlined in the court document include an amicus brief filed by the Florida Catholic Conference — a group Dempsey has no direct affiliation with — relating to a previously failed attempt to establish a school voucher program.

You can read more at Watchdog.org.

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

Tom Tillison


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