Favorite

Freedom rings 

One of the scary things about the proposed merger of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and St. Vincent Health System was that it would have forced Arkansas defenders of religious freedom to fight on two fronts. To the ongoing and bitter battle over diverting public-school funds to church schools would have been added an unwholesome alliance between the state's only public teaching hospital and a Catholic institution that could have used taxpayers' money to advance sectarian beliefs.

It was with great relief we learned over the weekend that the UAMS-St. Vincent merger will not come about, UAMS officials announcing that discussions had ended without an agreement. St. Vincent had proposed the "alliance," as the parties preferred to call it, and UAMS officials seemed at first eager to barter away Arkansans' freedoms for budgetary gain. Both hospitals contended they would experience significant savings by combining certain clinical services and sharing management functions. But helping a Catholic hospital save money is no part of the mission of UAMS, and we doubt the Catholic hierarchy, whose approval would have been required for any alliance, would be greatly moved by the idea of saving money for a non-Catholic institution. Certainly the bishops would not be nearly so interested in that as in advancing Catholic beliefs. Those beliefs in regard to abortion, contraception, end-of-life care and other clinical services are not shared by all taxpayers. How a hospital divided on these matters could stand was never adequately explained, being impossible.

(While abortion and contraception have long been contentious, even as they've become more widely accepted, end-of-life care is gaining ground. Four states — Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Montana — now have "death with dignity" laws, allowing terminally ill patients to request medication they can use to die peacefully. More states will follow.)

We don't know exactly what factors caused UAMS leaders to change their minds. We'd like to think that freedom of religion was involved. Church and state are separate entities in America, by careful design. It's a bedrock principle of this country that no American can be taxed to support someone else's religion. A UAMS-St. Vincent merger would have been challenged in court immediately.

If the hospital question is resolved, efforts to circumvent the First Amendment in another way will continue and likely intensify. Some states have already approved voucher programs, taking money from underfunded public schools and giving it to students who attend private schools, mostly church-related. Voucher programs have been most eagerly embraced in states that have big Catholic populations, and therefore big parochial-school systems, unlike Arkansas. But voucherism has spread even to states like North Carolina. The Republican Party loves vouchers; they're pretty much the signature issue of the current speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. And where Catholic bishops once were by far the biggest lobby for vouchers, the bishops have been joined by influential allies — big-money critics of public schools and teacher unions, and fundamentalist Protestants who want their own schools. Arkansas has plenty of these, and a new Republican majority in the General Assembly. Arkansans who cherish the public schools and religious freedom need gird their loins even tighter.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of St. Vincent Health System, UAMS

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation