by Max Brantley
Now comes extremist Republican (but I repeat myself) Rep. Randy Alexander with constitutionally flawed legislation to protect legislators like Rep. Justin Harris who want to promote religion in their state-funded daycare programs.
His HB 1352, co-sponsored by a gang of Republicans, would amend existing law on the state-funded Arkansas Better Chance pre-school program, which has provided solid family income to Harris' Growing God's Kingdom daycare in West Fork and pre-schools operated in Mountain Home by Sen. Johnny Key's family. The prevalence of religious practices in those state-funded institution prompted a complaint, a review by DHS and a re-emphasis of the constitutional guidance that state money can't be used to establish religion (fundamentalist Christian in these cases).
Alexander would attempt to fix that. His bill would strike the part of the law that requires review of ABC programs to be sure they don't violate the constitutional church-state separation principle. Instead, it says:
Arkansas Better Chance Program funding may be approved for and expended by a faith-based early childhood program if the program is selected by the parent of a child enrolled in the faith-based early childhood program and not by a state agency or officer.
This bill for cleansing public subsidies to religious groups doesn't make publicly funded church constitutional. It is also an enormous slippery slope. You could just as readily take it to any aspect of school or government. It will employ lawyers if passed, which, given the theme of this session, you can't rule out.