by Max Brantley
A Republican chaplain, Kim Hammer of Benton, says he'll join the fight to allow proselytizing on public money. A Democrat, James Word of Pine Bluff, sounds amenable to a little — just a little — religion, too. Says Word:
"... but the mere fact that they may do a prayer or something of that nature, I don’t really feel that that’s in direct violation of the polices that DHS has set out."
This is election year fruit ripe for picking by Republicans. They'll vote for God every time. If Mike Ross was still in the legislature, he'd lead the charge, waving a Bible along with his flag. Republicans will let Democrats take the responsibility for upholding the Constitution, then pummel them for it. Count on it. They might even bring around a few good Baptists like Rep. Word. Then martyr-in-waiting Justin Harris can have his (losing) lawsuit. We've been down this road so many times before — Epperson v. Arkansas and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education are the most famous. The sad thing here is the state today lacks such champions of the First Amendment as Attorney General Steve Clark, who, larcenous though he was when it came to public money, got it exactly right in refusing to defend creation science after its loss in district court. Today, Gov. Mike Beebe's Department of Human Services first refused to enforce a state law banning religion in programs it funds; then ignored multiple reports that Harris and Key were doing such a thing, and, finally, under direct pressure, came up with a rule intended to allow Harris and Key to keep as much religion as possible in their programs without a peep of resistance from the protectors of our public money.
Federal court, here we come. If only cartoonist George Fisher were here to stick a banana, or similar, in the hand of Justin Harris and Co., as he famously did after Gov. Frank White's support for the "creation science" law.
PS — I got a long note on Facebook this morning from a daycare operator who incorporates the Bible in his program. I think you'll find it very interesting. Read on:
First you do not know me but I have been reading your articles about Rep. Justin Harris and Rep. Johnny Key who run daycares and receive Government funding in the running of their daycares. The reason this topic is so interesting to me you might ask.
My wife and I own a daycare in Arkansas. We are Christians and my wife from day one when we opened our daycare was told you cannot teach any Bible teachings or talk about God if you are planning on asking for any Government assistance. So we made the choice to do it all by ourselves.
We have played by the rules set down to us by the State of Arkansas. We receive no funding and all the bills, payroll, etc. is from the money that we get from our hard working parents who elect to send their kids to our daycare. As we do have Bible stories, etc..
So if you would put yourself in my shoes, we are just a hard working family that is playing by the rules and it does not seem fair that others in the daycare business who receive funding of $500,000 or more per year do not play by the rules we were instructed when we first open our business.
If Justin Harris and Johnny Key are teaching religion in their daycares. I have no problem with that but I do have a problem if they are and are still receiving Government funding if this is considered a violation of Church and State.
Again, I must stress that we are Christians and we wished every daycare in Arkansas would have something to teach the kids each day about the word of God.
But, I do not think it is fair and it does put our daycare at a HUGE disadvantage in not receiving the kind of money that these and other daycares in Arkansas receive from the State/Dept.of Human Services for the ABC programs they fund from people like you and me as taxpayers.
I also read your article with interest on the Russellville agency that is going to turn over it's daycare ABC operations to another group. From what I read today in the SW Times by a article from Rob Moritz these centers served 2,300 children this nonprofit will turn over it's operations to management team out of Denver-based Community Development Institute.
They are to be in Russellville for a meeting this Monday 2/6/12 with the board of Child Development Inc. In the article it says the company used its Russellville headquarters as collateral to receive a $400,000 loan to make its employee payroll.
That makes me wonder and almost can't fathom how much this Head Start center must have been receiving in Federal and State funding. I do not see how a Denver based company can come in a run a daycare program in the State of Arkansas?
I want any kids in the State to be able to attend a Head Start if their parents cannot afford a good daycare but it appears that this one in Russellville didn't use its money wisely. Will they just ask for more Federal and State funding to throw at the problems they have?
Max, I want you to know I appreciate you looking into the ABC program and how it is run in the State of Arkansas or how it may not be run right. I could not believe from a past article on how much money the State gives to daycares for the ABC program.
With the happenings in Russellville it has to make each taxpayer wonder if this is a program that is mismanaging the money given to them or could it be that it is funded 100 percent but certain daycares are not spending the money correctly and just wanting to go back to the government and ask for more money to try and fix a problem by throwing more money at it instead of finding and fixing their problems.
Sorry for such a long read. I just have a passion for this, as I hate to see my wife worry and struggle each week with our daycare as we are 100 percent privately owned and funded.
That is our choice but again as I said before. It appears that politicians and maybe others in this business may not be playing by the same set of rules that we have been playing by over the years. We would just like a fair playing field that everyone has to abide by.
Thank you for listening to my concerns and I mainly wrote this to let you know if you are ever thinking to yourself. Is anyone reading my articles and does anyone really care. So the answer is yes. Please keep up the good work on investigating this issue.
I welcome any feedback you may have for me on this and you can look me up on Facebook and send a friends request if you would like. ...
Carl E. Valentine