Tweet of the Week:
"No one's being jailed for practicing her religion. Someone's being jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion."
— Rachel Held Evans, an iconoclastic Christian writer supportive of LGBT rights, on the saga of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or allow her deputies in the Rowan County, Ky., courthouse to do so either, for which a federal judge held her in contempt and sent her to jail last week. Mike Huckabee, among others, rallied to her cause. Davis was freed on Tuesday but ordered to not interfere with her deputies' issuance of licenses. It remains to be seen if she'll comply.
As the Times went to press on Tuesday, voters in Fayetteville were headed to the polls to vote on a city ordinance that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT residents of the city. UPDATE: The civil rights ordinance was ratified by voters. It's a reboot of a somewhat broader measure that was defeated, 52-48, by voters in a referendum last December. The "For Fayetteville" coalition organizing in support of the ordinance has won the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce this time around, but will that be enough to overcome the intensive field work by conservative evangelical churches that wish to retain the ability to legally discriminate against sexual minorities? We'll find out soon.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is leading a delegation to Cuba to promote trade later this month, according to a spokesman. This makes good sense: Arkansas agriculture is chomping at the bit to see Cuba's borders open further as diplomatic relations normalize, considering the economic opportunities for the state's rice industry and other farmers. But Hutchinson's approach contrasts with the rhetoric of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a fellow Republican, who's called the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba "a grave mistake" and has promised to "work to maintain and increase sanctions on the regime."
Church to state: Halt executions
In the pages of the Arkansas Catholic, Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock urged the legislature and the governor to abolish the death penalty in the state.
Taylor was prompted to write after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent a request to the governor asking that he set execution dates for the eight men on death row whose appeals have run out. Arkansas recently acquired a supply of execution drugs sufficient to resume lethal injections, which have been stalled in the state since 2005.
The bishop wrote, "I have experienced the death penalty from the side of innocent victims and the side of criminals executed, and what is violated in both cases is the sanctity of life: either by the criminal or by the state. I know you often hear Catholics talk about the sanctity of life in the context of abortion, so today I need to emphasize two obvious things: 1) life does not cease to be sacred once the baby is born, and 2) no one will be fully secure until we reject everything that threatens human life or degrades human dignity."
Joel Anderson to leave UALR
University of Arkansas at Little Rock faculty received a note from Chancellor Joel Anderson last week stating his intention to retire from the position after 45 years at the school, 13 of them as chancellor. It's a shame: He's been a force for good at UALR and the larger community and has skillfully navigated the challenges of running an urban university.
Anderson said in his memo that the time was right to step down because he felt his institution has "growing momentum," including a recent gift of $20 million from the Windgate Foundation to build a new art and design building, a recently announced new partnership with the eStem charter school, increasing student enrollment and more.