Smart Talk Aug. 31 

Death of a pioneer

Major newspapers around the country carried long obituaries on the recent death of a pioneer in the battle to separate church and state. It was a death with an Arkansas connection.

Vashti Ruth Cromwell McCollum, who died Aug. 20 in Illinois at 93, was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited religious instruction in public schools. That bedrock ruling remains under attack by the “radical Christian right,” notes her son, Jim, on whose behalf the suit was brought. He’s the Arkansas connection — a resident of Emerson who works at Southern Arkansas University and is still active in Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Jim McCollum was a fifth-grader when the suit was brought and his mother didn’t want him to attend the religion classes then held in Champaign, Ill., public schools.

Jim McCollum writes that anyone who is interested in preserving the wall of separation between church and state can contact him at jtmccollum@saumag.edu and join the Arkansas Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Which Huckabee did you read?
Gov. Mike Huckabee’s nuanced answers on the question of same-sex marriage continue.

From the National Journal, Aug. 22:

He [Huckabee] opposes same-sex marriage and believes government should affirm the primacy of heterosexual marriage, but he’s uncomfortable with a constitutional amendment that would “ban” same-sex marriage — he’d rather see one affirm something, rather than ban something else.

From the Concord (N.H.) Monitor a week earlier:

“I don’t have a problem with there being a federal marriage amendment, in fact I would support it.”

From the Hotline:

In SC for the NGA meeting, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) told a crowd on 8/4 that they need to “turn out the votes” for a same-sex marriage amendment ban and show that marriage “still means something.”

Behind the ads

Stephens Media Group reported last week that the Coalition for Arkansas’s Future had made a $100,000 ad buy for the fall election campaign. The ads do not directly advocate the election of Republican Asa Hutchinson or the defeat of Democrat Mike Beebe in the race for governor. But the ads’ intent is clear enough. They depict Mike Beebe as a rabid proponent of tax increases.

As we’ve reported previously, the Coalition is a so-called 527 group. Contributions to it are not subject to taxation, thanks to federal law, and the group reports its activities under the looser requirements of the IRS, rather than the Federal Election Commission. Democrats and Republicans alike have used 527s to avoid the contribution limits to individual political campaigns. There is no limit on contributions to 527s and they tend to operate in the shadows.

The Coalition for Arkansas’ Future is headed by a former Republican Party employee, Kathryn Cherry. According to the first of its reports on file with the IRS, the Republican Party of Arkansas was the biggest contributor of the money now being used to attack Mike Beebe — $17,500 of the $18,725 raised through June 30. Non-partisan. No. The Coalition has also targeted a Democratic legislator, Rep. Monty Davenport of Yellville. Some observers expect more 527s to pop up in Arkansas before the election is over, perhaps even some working the Democratic side.



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