Arkansas Republicans have a new idea for making the funding of religious institutions by the government constitutional. According to their latest strategy, all you have to do is say it doesn’t violate the Constitution, and it magically doesn’t. A bill being introduced to the state legislature would allow “faith-based” early childhood programs to be funded by the Arkansas Better Chance pre-school program if the parents of a child want.
Sounds harmless enough, right? They aren’t forcing the Bible or creationism into a science class. They aren’t making anyone go to the religious pre-schools, after all; they’re just making the public pay for them. And, as the Arkansas Times reports, there may be a bit of corruption at work here:
His [Rep. Randy Alexander, main sponsor of the bill] HB 1352, co-sponsored by a gang of Republicans, would amend existing law on the state-funded Arkansas Better Chance pre-school program, which has provided solid family income to Harris’ Growing God’s Kingdom daycare in West Fork and pre-schools operated in Mountain Home by Sen. Johnny Key’s family. The prevalence of religious practices in those state-funded institution prompted a complaint, a review by DHS and a re-emphasis of the constitutional guidance that state money can’t be used to establish religion (fundamentalist Christian in these cases).
Republicans in Arkansas don’t seem to understand that public money can’t fund religious institutions, no matter what the parents of the children say. The Constitution doesn’t change every time a different person reads it, after all. The ACLU and AU have already stated their plans to fight the bill, in court if necessary, and it is somewhat unlikely that it will ever actually become a law.
Pointless and unconstitutional bills like this are more than a waste of time. In the end, if the bill goes to court, lawyers will be hired to fight for it. Those lawyers will be paid for by the sponsors of the bills, using public money to do so. Millions of tax dollars per year go to fighting Republicans when they try to introduce religion into schools, and it’s lasted long enough. This is waste, pure and simple. The affiliated legislators can’t honestly believe that a bill like this would go anywhere, so they are seemingly creating this waste on purpose.
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