Columns » Max Brantley

One of those weeks


It has been one of those weeks. So many outrages. So little space. • The Arkansas House voted 44 to 39 (17 did not vote) against a resolution affirming support for the separation of church and state. Yes, Rep. Buddy Blair was trying to stir a little mischief with his resolution. All but one Republican and far too many Democrats jumped into his briar patch. The issue was not whether this is a “Christian nation,” as one Republican suggested. It was not a declaration on how far the government may go in injecting religion into government, as another Republican said. It was simply an up or down vote on a historic principle built on the rock of the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights lost in Arkansas. • Speaking of which: The Beebe School Board said its attorney spoke out of turn in telling the ACLU the school district would remove a nearly 400-word anti-evolution statement from textbooks at the end of the year. The Board now says it wants to wait for a decision by a federal appeals court on a similar case in Georgia. The cases aren’t comparable. The sticker placed in Cobb County, Ga., books says only: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.” A judge ruled nonetheless that this was but another attempt to inject religion into classrooms. Beebe takes religion-masquerading-as-science much farther. Its message to students poses questions about fossil records and misstates science, saying “Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.” The ACLU should sue. Now. • On a more temporal level there was the spectacle of former Sen. Mike Todd, fresh off a federal felony sentence, being invited to speak to the Northwest Arkansas Political Animals Club. Todd went to the slammer for his role in a legislative deal to create a sweetheart legal aid program on which a handful of insiders stood to profit until the Arkansas Times blew the whistle. In an interview with the Democrat-Gazette after his talk, Todd maintained his innocence. The D-G reported that Todd said he was only responsible “for not paying attention well enough to what was going on around me.” “To be guilty of mail fraud, you have to be intending to deceive,” he said. “I know that wasn’t the case. I was always baffled by the case. There was no money lost. Nobody was hurt. There was no real victim.” No money was lost (apart from the cost of the investigation and trials), because the program was killed and money returned after the Times exposed the deal. Taxpayers were victims. So, too, were ethics and honesty. Todd’s unrepentant whine was enough to make me long for Nick Wilson, the former senator who fell in the same investigation. He did his time, came home to Arkansas, declines invitations from Political Animals Clubs and tells those who see him that, yes, he did wrong and should have been caught long before.

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