by Max Brantley
I see Stephens Media has a report following up the story I broke earlier today about the request by Americans United for Separation of Church and State to have state agencies that fund state Rep. Justin Harris' daycare investigate whether his daycare is impermissibly entangled in religion.
Harris would not talk to me, though his remarks to John Lyon are in line with the Facebook post I mentioned earlier. Harris thinks he can instill the teachings of his God in a school run with public tax money. He claims the state has audited him and found no wrongdoing. Americans United has said there's no evidence in state records that it has EVER performed the audit required for all pre-school grantees on compliance with the Constitution. (I've asked for the list of other church groups that receive this money and whether they have ever been audited by the state to insure they don't teach religion with public money either — or support their religious mission indirectly with public money.)
Harris said he and his wife, Marsha, support the Bible curriculum out of their own pockets, and regular audits conducted by DHS and ABC officials have not found otherwise.
“We feel like we have done all that we’re supposed to do,” he said.
Harris said he believes the Washington group’s interest in his preschool was instigated by complaints from his political opponents in Arkansas.
“It’s politically motivated,” he said. “If I wasn’t in the position I am in today, it wouldn’t even be an issue.”
First, Harris is a crybaby. He's persecuted because he's a Christian; he's persecuted because he's a legislator. If you believe persecution means an insistence on obeying the Constitution and law.
But here's the bigger issue: If Harris truly does pay the teachers who hold Bible class out of his own pocket daily, it is still impermissible to have a Bible class in a school otherwise wholly funded by public dollars. And let's not forget where the money in the Harrises' pockets come from — it comes from the money they pay themselves as salary out of the taxpayers' grant.
Americans United says they prefer to work out situations such as these with negotiation rather than sue. It seems pretty clear that Justin Harris seeks martyrdom. Let him have it. Take his money away if he won't stop teaching the Christian Bible with state and federal tax dollars. Give the money up and he can preach whatever he wants for as long as he wants to whomever is willing to pay him to hear it.