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Politics and the church
Under federal law, partisan political activity can cause a church to lose its tax exemption. Theoretically, it’s irrelevant which party the activity is for. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, worries that the reality may be different.

In the December issue of his organization’s monthly publication, “Church & State,” Lynn notes that the IRS declined to take action against the First Baptist Church of Springdale after a July 4, 2004, service during which the church’s pastor, Rev. Ronnie Floyd, praised President Bush for his “war on terrorism” and his stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, while lambasting U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, Bush’s opponent in the presidential race. But the IRS is now pursuing an investigation of All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, Calif., whose former rector, Rev. George F. Regas, delivered a sermon Oct. 31, 2004, that was sharply critical of Bush and his policies.

Lynn said that the IRS decision to investigate one church and not the other “gives the public the impression that IRS enforcement is at best arbitrary, or at worst, biased. … Any suggestion of partisan bias in enforcement damages the credibility of the tax agency and is absolutely unacceptable.”

The tale school enrollment tells
It’s no secret that Pulaski County has been relatively static in population the last couple of decades, increasing only modestly compared with booming Northwest Arkansas.

Public school enrollment, as recorded by the federal court’s Office of Desegregation Monitoring over the last 18 years, reflects that trend. It also reflects a changing racial demographic in Pulaski County that may be a factor in growth patterns – enrollment is declining and it is increasingly black. Public school enrollment, of course, doesn’t include the mostly white and growing population in private schools.

Little Rock 26,543 63 26,385 69
N. Little Rock 9,494 43 9,580 59
Pulaski 21,871 25 18,587 42
TOTAL 57,908 45 54,552 58

How to lure visitors: HS tries a Wurm
Sorry, the puns are irresistible after news that the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has struck a deal with local pro fisherman Mike Wurm to be a part of the city’s national advertising campaign in 2006. Wurm, says advertising and promotion chief Steve Arrison, will use a Ranger bass boat on the pro bass fishing circuit. The boat will feature Hot Springs’ name and colors. His clothing also will bear Hot Springs logos and he’ll appear at trade shows for the city.

Said Arrison: “Whenever Mike is shown on television and in print publications at the tournaments in which he participates he will, in effect, be a living advertisement for our city and the excellent fishing that can be found all around us.”

Arrison notes that the 2005 FLW Championship brought 40,000 people to town for the bassing action and outdoors show. Wurm, who lives in Hot Springs, will receive $50,000 for the promotional tie-in.

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