by Max Brantley
A new year has begun and still the state Human Services Department dithers on the disclosure that taxpayer-financed pre-schools operated — for either profit or family pay — by state Rep. Justin Harris and state Sen. Johnny Key have included religious instruction subsidized by public money in the Growing God's Kingdom and Noah's Ark pre-schools.
Thanks to a reader last night who noted an article on the ongoing issue in the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has formally asked DHS to observe stater law — inspect schools receiving state money to make sure they meet constitutional requirements (by not teaching religion) and to stop it where it's occurring. Ian Smith, Americans United staff attorney, makes the critical point (and you could apply it to Nativity displays, football game prayer and all the other ways that taxpayer-financed institutions dare the public to stop them from proselytizing):
“The Arkansas Department of Human Services should be ashamed that this situation arose in the first place,” Smith said, “because the authorizing law specifically requires them to perform the kind of review that we asked them to undertake. If they had done what they were supposed to do, this wouldn’t have happened, and the only excuse they could muster up is that nobody had ever complained about it before.
“That’s not good enough,” he continued, “and it’s a perfect example of the lack-of-oversight problem with government programs that fund the activities of religious organizations.”