SECULAR AND SACRED; New legislation attempts to legalize religious displays in public schools in Arkansas by permitting them if some secular imagery is included. The Baxter County nativity scene has had some secular additions to attempt a similar runaround constitutional bars against religious establishment by government
A resolution filed in the House today indicates the legislature will stay in session through April 10, then recess and come back a month later to adjourn and, if necessary, fix any glitches.
The legislature convened Jan. 12.
In less than a month, it has passed a $100 million income tax cut and approved extension of the private option Medicaid expansion under Obamacare through 2017. A reshaping of the program is promised, but that will come only after a study process.
So what's the need for three months of meeting? The budget bills are rolling along.
Well, God, guns and gays still must be honored and dishonored.
We've written about the multiple pro-gun measures on the agenda — though still no effort to clarify the murky open carry issue. At least two bills are on the docket to protect legal discrimination against gay people. And God has not been forgotten.
For example, today from Rep. Justin Harris,
who lives off a state-financed religious-oriented pre-school, has introduced this:
(a) A school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations and allow students and school district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including:
(1) Merry Christmas;
(2) Happy Hanukkah; and
(3) Happy Holidays.
(b) Except as provided under subsection (c) of this section, a school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with a traditional winter celebration, including a menorah or Christmas image, if the display includes a scene or symbol of:
(1) More than one (1) religion; or
(2) One (1) religion and a secular scene or symbol.
(c) A display related to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.
Justin Harris can try to sit as U.S. Supreme Court and decree that sticking Santa Claus next to a Nativity scene will cover the predominantly Christian observances aimed at promoting the dominant local religion. Ultimately it's futile. Public school teachers will continue to promote their religion; it will mostly be tolerated; occasionally a brave resident will call in the ACLU. The ACLU will win. (And where's the bow to Islam? Jews are covered by his bill not Muslims? No Buddhas?)
For this the 60-day session must run an extra month? But for an out-of-towner it's sweet, with five days of $150 per diem per week — whether you show up or not — another month is good for $3,000 in pocket money. And a whole lot of demagoguery about guns, God and gays (who have themselves become a symbol of religion. Who knew that the Christian religion demanded discrimination against those of different sexual orientation? Good Samaritans be advised: you need not serve gay people, lest you violate religious principles. Serve only those you approve of. Jesus said that, didn't he?
Harris did withdraw his drone bill today. But the session is young. Too young
Apart from red meat cultural issues, big fights are coming on education and tort reform. Some special interest legislation for asbestos producers is one item to look for, as well as the big push for major tort reform in a constitutional measure. Committee membership could hamper this. If the legislature had a sense of shame, the names Michael Morton, Gilbert Baker and Mike Maggio might suggest a delicacy delay on pushing more help for the nursing home industry and other corporate interests anxious to hold down court liability for damaging people.