Arkansas House Opposes Separation Resolution

The Arkansas House of Representatives has rejected a resolution supporting the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

The Arkansas House voted 44-39 on Feb. 18 against Res. 1005 that quoted the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment and a section of the state constitution, which holds that citizens cannot be “compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship.”

Democratic Rep. Buddy Blair sponsored the amendment. Following the House action, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a Little Rock daily, “Apparently, the churches are dictating how they vote, not their conscience.”

Blair, a Methodist, said, “Too many people use their own church or their own religion as an example of how they’re going to vote on legislation. I felt like I wanted to remind them that there is a wall [of separation between church and state] there.”

At least one member who voted against Blair’s resolution maintained that separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.

Some observers lamented the House vote. Mike Dougherty, a staffer at the Benton Courier, a Benton, Ark., weekly, blasted House members for rejecting the pro-church-state separation resolution.

“People who don’t believe there should be a separation of church and state are the people who believe mixing government and religion is OK, as long as it is their religion that is government-sanctioned,” wrote Dougherty, the weekly’s news editor.