Only one cross on public property in Searcy? 

Some Arkansans were surprised to hear that only one cross was found displayed on public property in Searcy, so identified the city has become with Republican right-wing politics. A longtime Searcy Democrat once told us that Searcy has been voting Republican in presidential races since the Dwight Eisenhower years, mid-20th century, while most of the rest of the state remained reliably Democratic until quite recently. The influence of the conservative Harding University has grown, and the town is fairly comfortable and virtually all-white. It's a combination conducive to cross-bearing and flag-waving.

The cross in question is outside the police chief's office, a site perhaps strategically chosen to impress any ACLU agitators who roll into town promoting separation of church and state. Standing next to his pet cross, the chief might say "Well, Mr. Bill of Rights, let me introduce you to Mr. Billy Club." The City Council might plant a cross outside the fire chief's door, emboldening him to turn the hoses on any freedom-of-religion agitators. (A group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation, of Madison, Wis., is seeking to have the cross removed.)

But Searcy has not been completely lost to the Tea Party. Even as it veered to the right, Searcy produced a progressive, problem-solving senator who proved to be what was needed in the governor's office as well. The Mike Beebe administration will be well regarded by historians. Former Sen. and Rep. John Paul Capps managed to serve longer in the state legislature than almost anyone else, despite being a thoughtful moderate.

Our own hope is that there's a Harding professor, a heretofore secret Constitutionalist, who'll step forward and say the cross should be removed from the police chief's yard, and the prof will be followed by some of his best students, possibly energized by their discovery that the Bisons' star quarterback is a Muslim. It would be a good made-for-TV movie wouldn't it? Our own price for rights to the story would be shockingly modest.


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