The Rev. Alma Beck, who was featured along with other gay Arkansans in a recent Arkansas Times cover story on their struggle to work and live where they wish without fear of discrimination, will not be asked to return to her teaching job at the Episcopal Cathedral School next fall.
Beck, 51, who has taught fourth grade at the school for two years and who preaches at churches in the Episcopal Diocese, was informed last week by the school principal that to keep her job, she would have to stop speaking publicly about her sexual orientation. Beck decided she could not agree to stop working for the rights of gays. Beck and others have their work cut out for them: A bill filed in the legislative session just ended to include sexual orientation in the state’s civil rights law was pulled when it became clear it would not pass out of committee.
ASU faculty wants Corn
The faculty senate of Arkansas State University at Jonesboro has asked ASU President Les Wyatt to invite David Corn to speak on the Jonesboro campus. Corn is the journalist who was invited to speak at ASU-Mountain Home, then disinvited by ASUMH officials, apparently because they discovered he was a liberal and critical of President Bush, although ASUMH officials have never given a full explanation. The case has attracted national attention as an alleged stifling of academic freedom.
The resolution adopted by the Jonesboro faculty senate April 15 said that the contracting for and then dismissing of a speaker for a lecture series was “intellectually dishonest and contrary to the notion of academic freedom and free speech and as such is unacceptable in a university setting.” The resolution called on Wyatt “to rectify the damage done to David Corn by Arkansas State University System administrators,” by extending an immediate invitation to Corn to speak on the ASUJ campus. Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation, a leftish magazine.
Wyatt said through a spokesman that he would forward the resolution to the Lecture-Concert Committee, as he does with all proposals for speakers and performers.
Blair blames PETA
State Rep. Buddy Blair of Fort Smith blames PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and one vocal PETA member from East Arkansas particularly, for the failure of his animal-cruelty bill. Animal cruelty in Arkansas is a misdemeanor; in most states, it’s a felony. HB 1561 would have made second-offense animal cruelty a felony. The bill would have applied only to cats, dogs and horses, an attempt to lessen opposition from agricultural interests. Blair said PETA told him that it would oppose the bill unless it applied to “all living creatures.” He said the bill couldn’t pass like that, so he withdrew it.
Mark your calendars. By act of this legislature, the third Saturday in June is now an official observance of Juneteenth. That’s a date, long celebrated in Texas, which commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when word reached Texas of the end of the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves. The big question: Will this date get the same coverage each year from the Democrat-Gazette that it gives to the observance of the death of David O. Dodd, boy martyr of the Lost Cause?
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is laying on a free spread for legislators under a big tent at chamber headquarters from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today outside the chamber office at 1200 W. Capitol Avenue.
Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore has announced he will "share plans" this afternoon to discuss facilities and budget — meaning which schools he'll recommend for closing and where the budget will be cut. Advocates for voter control of the school district aren't happy.
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.