John Lyon of Stephens Media samples legislative opinion to Rep. Justin Harris’ call that legislators block the proposed (should be superfluous) rule to bar use of state money to teach religion in daycares, such as his in West Fork and Sen. Johnny Key’s in Mountain Home.
A Republican chaplain, Kim Hammer of Benton, says he’ll join the fight to allow proselytizing on public money. A Democrat, James Word of Pine Bluff, sounds amenable to a little — just a little — religion, too. Says Word:
“… but the mere fact that they may do a prayer or something of that nature, I don’t really feel that that’s in direct violation of the polices that DHS has set out.”
This is election year fruit ripe for picking by Republicans. They’ll vote for God every time. If Mike Ross was still in the legislature, he’d lead the charge, waving a Bible along with his flag. Republicans will let Democrats take the responsibility for upholding the Constitution, then pummel them for it. Count on it. They might even bring around a few good Baptists like Rep. Word. Then martyr-in-waiting Justin Harris can have his (losing) lawsuit. We’ve been down this road so many times before — Epperson v. Arkansas and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education are the most famous. The sad thing here is the state today lacks such champions of the First Amendment as Attorney General Steve Clark, who, larcenous though he was when it came to public money, got it exactly right in refusing to defend creation science after its loss in district court. Today, Gov. Mike Beebe’s Department of Human Services first refused to enforce a state law banning religion in programs it funds; then ignored multiple reports that Harris and Key were doing such a thing, and, finally, under direct pressure, came up with a rule intended to allow Harris and Key to keep as much religion as possible in their programs without a peep of resistance from the protectors of our public money.
Federal court, here we come. If only cartoonist George Fisher were here to stick a banana, or similar, in the hand of Justin Harris and Co., as he famously did after Gov. Frank White’s support for the “creation science” law.
PS — I got a long note on Facebook this morning from a daycare operator who incorporates the Bible in his program. I think you’ll find it very interesting. Read on: