JERRY COX: The Family Council leader. (file photo) Brian Chilson

Here’s a storyline to watch: The Family Council, the conservative Christian group that’s long fought against same-sex marriage and abortion rights, has come out heavy against Issue 1, the so-called “tort reform” ballot proposal that would limit damage awards in lawsuits. The messaging battle over Issue 1 has long been seen as one that pitted the deep pockets of the state Chamber of Commerce and big business in the state against the deep pockets of trial lawyers. Could the Family Council’s truck with evangelicals tip the scales?

Jay Barth, writing in the Arkansas Times in June, identified the Family Council’s argument against the measure as part of a possible path to its defeat. Today, the Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo has an excellent deeper dive into what’s going on, including how the Family Council’s opposition on this issue is dividing conservatives.


“The Bible is full of references to justice, and (the proposal) creates an environment where the powerful can tip the scales of justice against everybody else, but especially the poor,” Jerry Cox, the Family Council’s head, said at a recent breakfast meeting with pastors.

Pastors were handed informational booklets emblazoned with the words “Don’t Put A Price Tag On Human Life.” Flyers left on each table offered attendees inserts for their church bulletins.

Rose Mimms, head of the anti-abortion Arkansas Right to Life, also opposes Issue 1, saying it hurts “pro-life” efforts in the state.

But proponents of the measure point to $150,000 in donations the Family Council has received from a Little Rock law firm that opposes Issue 1 as a sign that it’s sold out. DeMillo notes grousing from the likes of Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), a sponsor of the proposal, and Rep. Marcus Richmond (R-Harvey), the House majority leader.


None of this may matter if a lawsuit seeking to remove the proposal from the ballot succeeds. The plaintiff, retired Judge Marion Humphrey, argues that the proposal amounts to logrolling — putting four separate proposals in a single amendment contrary to the state Constitutional mandate for single-issue proposals. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled to being Aug. 30 in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce’s courtroom.