UPDATE, 4:09 p.m.: Jerry Cox, President of the Family Council, said that it will not present its “Power of Courage” awards to Reps. Harris and Fite this evening after all. The two legislators will still receive their awards, but at a later date and venue of their choosing.
Cox said the event organizers — the Crawford County Republican Party — asked the Family Council to not present the awards this evening at its Lincoln Day Dinner, headlined by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. “Since we are their guests, we certainly complied,” he said.
When I asked Cox if he had any reservations about honoring Harris, given the controversy surrounding his adoption, he said, “None whatosever, because the award is specifically for his sponsorship of one of the pro-life bills passed during the session … These awards are given to lawmakers for their sponsorship of specific legislation. That’s it.”
Cox said the group has a total of 12 awards it plans to give to 12 state lawmakers.
The question is whether the Cruz campaign may have had a hand in the decision. KARK’s Drew Petrimoulx attempted to ask the senator about Harris today when Cruz was in Little Rock — before the Family Council announced it would hold off on giving the awards — but got little response.
The Family Council Action Committee will today present its first annual “Power of Courage” awards to two Arkansas state legislators, Rep. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren) and Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork).
The group’s press release say Fite and Harris “demonstrated courage by standing strong in faith when situations were tough at the State Capitol and they did so with grace. They are consistently models of their Christian values in their homes, their communities, and their churches.” It commends the two lawmakers for their work on legislation regarding abortion.
The awards will be delivered this afternoon at a Republican Party dinner in Crawford County headlined by presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Harris, of course, is now best known to the state for the “rehoming” of two young girls whom he and his wife adopted from Arkansas DHS in 2013 and subsequently gave to another family. At that household, one of the children was sexually abused. After the Arkansas Times made the Harris rehoming public, the state legislature promptly passed legislation that makes it a crime to transfer permanent physical custody of an adopted child without court involvement; the law was not retroactive, so the Harrises faced no sanction for their actions. Justin Harris remains in public office today, although he’s said he doesn’t plan to run again when his term ends in 2016.
The Family Council Action Committee describes itself as “a nonprofit organization devoted to standing up for traditional family values in the political arena.” Perhaps most prominently, its president, Jerry Cox, has been one of the state’s leading voices against LGBTQ rights.
“The hardships that legislators go through at the State Capitol are sometimes unknown to the public, and during these times it sometimes takes tremendous courage to stand up for what is right” said Cox in a statement. “The Bible often speaks of courage and these legislators have consistently shown courage and taken it to heart.”
The press release doesn’t mention the rehoming controversy directly, though it does say this:
Even when opposed by the liberal media, Representative Harris has always held firm and stood tall in his faith. No one can deny Representative Harris’ faith has always led him while serving at the Arkansas State Capitol. In 2015, Harris sponsored the Parental Involvement Enhancement Act, requiring parents to be involved in their children’s decision to terminate life by requesting an abortion. This is now law today.
Just to make it clear that this is not satire, here’s the full release from the Family Council: