by Max Brantley
I told you yesterday about Paul Northcut, an alleged minister who sits on the Russellville City Council, and his crusade against a gay nightclub and a Hispanic nightclub in the city. From his writing, you get the distinct impression it's more than nightclubs that offend him about gay and Hispanic people.
Northcut's objection prompted Russellville businessman Nimesh "Nick" Patel to withdraw from renomination to the Planning Commission. Northcut thought Patel was soft on gay people.
The Courier reported today on Patel's prepared statement to the Commission on his decision to withdraw. He regretted bad publicity for Russellville, which he said could cause people to avoid the city.
Patel explained that he withdrew because Northcut had asked him to do something "unconstitutional" and he wondered why Northcut had singled him out for criticism in a letter to the mayor. Then he addressed the infamous nightclubs in a prepared statement.
“The Hispanic nightclub application was presented to the planning commission as an event hall that was open to anyone, not just the hispanic community. If no one else enters the event hall, the city and planning commission has nothing to do with it," Patel said.
“The statement about the homosexual clubs in the paper puts the city of Russellville in great jeopardy,” Patel continued. “I made a comment almost two years ago — in a non-public meeting — questioning if the city could deny a business permit based on gender, sexuality, race or religion. And if the permit was issued, the city cannot control or tell anyone they can or cannot patronize that business. It’s the same thing as going to Walmart or McDonald's or Wendy’s or wherever. If someone tries to cater for a certain clientele, we cannot deny that.”
Patel noted the commission is not allowed to make decisions based on religious beliefs.
“We as a planning commission cannot make decisions based on religious morality,” Patel said. “It is considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We have to make the decision within the Constitution. If you want to break that, what’s next?”
Afterwards, Mayor Bill Eaton, among others, urged Patel to stay on the commission and praised his work. But Patel said, as a businessman, he couldn't stay "in the middle of this thing."
You think we could encourage Mr. Patel to move to Little Rock?