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The Insider, Oct. 22

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Promoting religion

The Arkansas ACLU is putting out a guide for schools on how to protect the religious liberty of their students, and not a minute too soon. The North Little Rock School District, rusty on its understanding of the U.S. Constitution, needs to order up a dozen copies. Here's what North Little Rock students are learning: That if a Christian group does good deeds on your campus, like landscaping and such, then it's OK to advertise on school grounds an upcoming Christian revival, and if only one person objects, that's proof it's all right.

That's the opinion of North Little Rock School Superintendent Ken Kirspel, North Little Rock High School East principal Lee Tackett and North Little Rock School District spokesperson Shara Brazear, who this week defended the plastering of the high school campus with signs and banners for Central Arkansas City Fest, with evangelist Luis Palau, who touts the number of people he's converted to Christianity at events such as these. All three claimed that since the signs weren't overtly Christian — because they never heard of Luis Palau until now — that made it OK for the public schools to promote the event. It's OK, too, for the district's school buses to operate a free shuttle between City Fest and the Miley Cyrus concert at Verizon Arena this weekend.

The city of North Little Rock is also sponsoring the event. It's giving the two-day festival, a culmination of community service work by a number of local churches, a break on rental fees for the city-owned North Shore Riverwalk.

City Fest has co-opted government on both sides of the river. In Little Rock, Assistant City Manager Bryan Day, asked about a large City Fest banner erected at War Memorial Park, said the city would consider taking it down — because it violates the sign ordinance, never mind the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment, or promotion, of specific brands of religion.

Corrections

An Insider item last week misspelled the name of the director of the Butler Center, David Stricklin, and the name of the family that will be opening a store in the Arkansas Studies Institute building. The family's name is Jains.

A Smart Talk last week incorrectly described a new plan to distribute circuit court cases in Pulaski County following rejection of an earlier plan by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Judge Willard Proctor will get both civil and criminal cases. Two other judges who had been proposed to handle only civil cases, would handle civil and domestic cases in the new plan.

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