Quote of the week
"I had yet to vote on it, period, because as chairman you don't vote unless you're needed to make the fifth vote, which is the passing vote. And so when this Democrat switched his vote, I was surprised, as was everybody else, and in that moment, I honestly was a coward and voted party line and voted to send it out."
— Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), in an interview with the Huffington Post, explaining why he voted for Arkansas's expanded version of the federal "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (HB 1228) in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then voted against it on the Senate floor. After that vote, Hutchinson told the Associated Press that he believed that religious activities were occasionally overregulated, but said, "[I]n my estimation that does not outweigh the chance that somebody uses religion to do what Jesus would not want to be done in his name, which is to discriminate against somebody and offend a brother or sister." Sen. Hutchinson was instrumental in the successful negotiations to replace HB 1228 with a Senate bill that more closely resembled the federal RFRA law.
Rehoming now a crime
Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law this week that makes "rehoming" an adopted child a felony. The governor also signed a companion measure that adds requirements for adoptive parents who receive subsidies from the state. The bills that are now law were filed shortly after the Arkansas Times reported that state Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) and his family adopted two girls from state custody and then placed them with another family seven months after their adoption was finalized. The girls were ages 5 and 3 at the time they were "rehomed" in late 2013. The 5-year-old girl was then sexually abused by the father at the new home, Eric C. Francis, before the sisters were moved to a third family in early 2014. Harris continued to receive state subsidy checks for the girls even after he sent them to live with the Francis family, though Harris' attorney has offered scanned copied of deposited checks to show that he passed them to subsequent caregivers.
LRSD cuts start at the top
Dexter Suggs, interim superintendent of the Little Rock School District, announced cuts of 64 positions from the top of the district's administration, which will create a cost savings of some $3.5 million. That's only a portion of the total savings needed to make up for the coming loss of $37 million in annual revenue in 2017, which is when state payments to the LRSD end as a result of a desegregation settlement. More pain is coming, and not just to the central office: Suggs also proposed cutting employee health benefits and paring some teachers' planning and preparation time each day.
Too much Jesus for Easter parade
The First United Methodist Church wasn't allowed to participate in the "Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade" in Eureka Springs on Saturday.
The church wanted to carry a sign that said, "Jesus Loves All."
A member of the church, a "reconciling congregation" that welcomes LGBT people, believes the church's love and acceptance of all kept them out of the parade. She told KNWA-TV they'd originally been approved to participate, but approval was withdrawn in the week before the parade.
A parade organizer, Laura Nichols, issued a lengthy statement that said she had nothing against homosexuals or the Methodist Church. But the statement also said: "This day isn't a day of pointing fingers or playing the blame game."
Saying "Jesus Loves All" does point a finger in the current debate. Sad to say. If Jesus would visit lepers and eat with publicans and other sinners, he might even drop a cake off at the house of a couple of lesbians. He'd certainly walk in a parade with them.