The billboards: Truth telling 

Billboards have gone up in the Little Rock area urging motorists to demand that "liberal media" tell the truth. Just so you'll know. This is the work of the right-wing Media Research Center, set up more than a couple of decades ago to attack media outlets that publish and broadcast unflattering reports about conservatives. Its backers include the Scaife, Olin and Bradley foundations, all sources of the money that fed the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton during the Whitewater era. The billboards went up in cities in states where, coincidentally no doubt, Republicans have prospects to win hotly contested Senate seats, many currently held by incumbents. In New York, the group has paid for trucks to drive around the New York Times and network offices (not Fox News) specifically targeting these "liberal" media. One current fixation of the Media Research Center, based in a Washington suburb, is defending anti-gay preachers who've been criticized in the media in the context of recent suicides of gay kids targeted by bullying. The subtext is that the liberal media are stirring up too much sympathy for the victims and, by extension, the "homosexual agenda." Nice bunch.

Harding's back in the pink

We reported in last week's Insider that a student complaint had prompted Harding University to order removal of Race for the Cure promotional items from the college bookstore shelves. A university vice president, Mel Sansom, issued the order in response to the student's complaint that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had provided support to Planned Parenthood, whose affiliates sometimes provide abortion. Abortion is a no-no for Church of Christ-sponsored Harding. Shortly after our deadline, we learned that Harding had relented and restored the items to the shelves. They promptly sold out. Neither student nor official had done the necessary homework. They had bought into — without checking — old folklore about Komen. Some of its affiliates do provide small amounts of money to Planned Parenthood — strictly for cancer screening programs. Harding was happy to announce that its support of Race for the Cure activities would continue and that the local Komen affiliate does NOT help Planned Parenthood here, not even with cancer screening. That last is nothing to brag about.

Can the bishop be saved?

Big news in the world of Little Rock religion last week when Bishop Steven Arnold stepped down after more than 20 years as pastor at St. Mark Baptist Church on West 12th Street. With more than 7,000 members, it is believed to be the state's largest African-American congregation. He admitted indiscretions, which the board of elders said later was an inappropriate relationship with a female church member. His resignation put a major building plan in doubt and also threatened to split the congregation, many of whom remain Arnold supporters. Shortly after his resignation, a group of supporters began their own effort to help Arnold. Encouraged by Sen. Tracy Steele, a church member, and aided by former member and former senator Bill Walker, a state agency director, members held a meeting at Dunbar Community Center to consider ways to help restore the bishop to his pastorate. Walker said the idea was to see if sufficient support could be gathered to encourage elders to hold a congregational vote on accepting or rejecting Arnold's resignation. Walker said that if a significant number, but less than a majority, didn't want Arnold to return, he believed he probably would not. Many think he'd then set out to begin a new church. Arnold drew large crowds during revival meetings at a North Little Rock church following his resignation, but lost some income when events apparently led to his resignation from a $20,000-a-year position on the Board of Directors of Bank of the Ozarks.



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