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House Bill Would Eliminate IRS

A popular game nowadays is “Would You Rather.” The Republican majority House has just surfaced a bill that could pose the question to all Americans: Would you rather pay income tax as usual or pay a 30% federal sales tax? The concept of a federal sales tax has been debated for years, but it may now be closer to reality than ever before. Let’s look at the odds of this “Fair Tax” becoming law and what it would do.

Even with just a 10-seat House majority advantage, Representative Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, Republican from Georgia, has filed a Bill, H.R. 25 with 23 co-sponsors, to replace income tax with a federal sales tax. This would eliminate the IRS and the whole tax service industry. Although the bill faces a hurricane-level headwind of opposition, it brings the issue to legitimate debate and analysis like never before. Almost all Democrats will fight it, and even Speaker Kevin McCarthy would be reluctant to bring it to the floor for vote assuming it would make it out of committee. President Biden is already trashing it and has promised to veto it if it would happen to get to his desk. The concept is certainly controversial, and it would revolutionize how America funds the government. It has caused a lot of fear-mongering, but it could be a tremendous boon to our economy and lifestyle.

The bill would eliminate all income taxes–personal, payroll, and corporate–and do away with the IRS. The government revenue would be replaced by a significant federal sales tax on all goods and services purchased. The Fair Tax assumes a 30% federal sales tax that would replace the loss of income tax. You will see the tax rate proposed as 23%, but that is, as George H. W. Bush called it, “fuzzy math.” The fact is, it’s really a 30% tax. For every $100 you spent, you would pay an extra $30 federal tax in addition to your current state and local taxes. This huge increase in the price of everything seems rather draconian at first blush, and the Democrats are already decrying the Republicans for even thinking about “punishing” consumers with such a financial burden. Of course they will never mention the ultimate added savings for the average American compared to what they would pay in income taxes.

Another hurdle for the bill is the endless accusation by the Democrats that Republicans favor advantages for the rich and burdens on the poor. Granted, the Fair Tax would result in financial gain for the upper class. Those whose income usually exceeds expenditures would pay less tax on less money. Although that is simply free-trade capitalism, it could be subject to amended tax law if too much wealth for some were an overwhelming concern. No doubt the poor, who pay little or no income tax, would be hurt economically by the increased consumer tax unless the bill protected against that inequity. It does, but that protection is a somewhat complicated process. Under Carter’s plan, all taxpayers would receive a monthly sales tax rebate called a “Family Consumption Allowance” based on family size. This rebate would offset the federal sales tax on all purchases up to the federal poverty line (currently $30,000 for a family of four). For example, every family of four would receive a monthly government rebate of $750 ($30,000/12 months = $2,500 per month x 30% tax = $750). A family in the poverty level economically would essentially be reimbursed for all federal sales taxes that might be paid up to $750. Families consuming above the poverty level would only pay unreimbursed sales taxes for spending above that level.

Another big advantage of the Fair Tax is that it eliminates the substantial and unlawful withholding of federal income taxes by earners in the underground economy. That involves cash earned by those who do not report it to the IRS for tax purposes. This includes, for instance, income sources from illicit drug sales, money laundering, and offshore banking schemes as well as individual landscaping, restaurant server tips, and house cleaning. Such illegal, off-the-books activity makes up a huge sector of the U.S. economy. The government estimates the loss of tax revenue from this activity to be 11% of Gross National Product (GNP), or currently $2.8 trillion. That is close to half of the U.S. federal budget! Those who have been evading these income taxes would suddenly be paying them with every purchase along with the rest of us if the Fair Tax Act were in effect.

In my opinion, the advantages of the Fair Tax far outweigh those of the traditional income tax. Why should Americans thriving in a capitalist society that should award productivity have much of their earnings confiscated by the government? Doesn’t it make sense to fund the government at the sales checkout rather than from payroll withholding. Despite the patently obvious argument for the Fair Tax, its likelihood of becoming the law of the land anytime soon is slim. The Democrats vehemently oppose it, because it would relinquish much of the government bureaucratic control of the citizens. They will make higher prices a one-note tune. Many Republicans will not want to support the bill fearing the political hay the Democrats would make of it. Unfortunately, one of the best congressional bills to surface in a long time will probably never see the light of day, squashed by politics. Nevertheless, I will urge my congressman to support the bill and perhaps co-sponsor it. I recommend you do the same. I just hope the attention the proposal is getting, pro and con, will keep the conversation alive and the citizens curious.

Celebrity Deaths and Life-essential Questions

People Magazine reported this week that 14 prominent American celebrities had departed this life so far in January. Those didn’t include David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Gina Lollobrigida of classic movie fame, both of whom died after that issue’s publication. The remains of all these celebrity bodies are still with us. But they themselves are somewhere else…still aware, still active, forever! That raises lots of life-essential questions. Find the answers at http://www.terrythompson.org/eternity.

Prospects for Arkansas Under Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Although Arkansas has advanced in many areas under eight years of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s conservative leadership, I believe we have just launched a period of positive transformation like none before. This week’s inauguration of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders promises to be a threshold of bold new ideas and initiatives that will showcase our state as the bellwether of conservative culture. Here’s why.

Governor Sanders began her career in politics in 2002 at the age of 20 when she worked in her father’s gubernatorial campaign. After graduating from Ouachita Baptist University, she served on President Bush’s presidential campaign, then again worked for her father in his 2008 bid for President. Since her appointment as President Trump’s press secretary six years ago, I have been intrigued by her wisdom, character, and leadership qualities. My wife, Linda, and I attended her swearing in and inaugural address on January 10. Her inspiring speech laid out her priorities and challenges for Arkansans.

The next day, after some immediate executive orders to eradicate the most inane woke atrocities that have been foisted on the state, Sanders acted on her first priority of education reform. She nominated Jacob Oliva, a top executive in the Florida Department of Education, as Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education. His first priority is to overhaul the state’s education system from kindergarten to the universities. Much of this will be in line with that of Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis’s education advancements. Governor Sanders plans to “expand access to quality education for every kid, empower parents, and prepare students for the workforce.” She is going to foster legislation that would expand school choice and provide further student access to private and charter schools as well as home schooling. Arkansas currently ranks 47th in overall education. Great strides in our schools would positively affect about every aspect of Arkansans’ quality of life.

She promises to make public safety one of her highest priorities and to ensure our law enforcement officers will have the respect, the resources, and the authority they need to reduce crime substantially. Criminals arrested will not be released prematurely, and a new prison will be built on her watch. Sanders vows to protect our citizens by being tough on crime as a top priority. Arkansas is fourth in the country for violent crime incidents. Sanders is committed to greatly improve that abysmal status.

Throwing another gauntlet down on her inaugural day, she was adamant about phasing out the state income tax. She believes this would bolster the economy with new industry and lower inflation. Eight states presently have no personal income tax including Texas and Tennessee, and they are all thriving economically. Arkansas’ economy is ranked number 41 in the nation. Sanders is Lasor-focused on Arkansas’ economic growth.

The 47th governor of Arkansas acknowledged her “firsts” as: first woman governor of Arkansas, youngest current governor in America, and the nation’s first ever female governor child of a former governor. However, she declared, “I’m not interested in being first in anything; I’m interested in leading Arkansas to be first in everything.” That’s a powerful soundbite, but I sense such a determined attitude will bode well for our state. It’s probably time to entrust our future highest office governance to a millennial with strong conservative values, fresh ideas, and abundant drive. I love the natural beauty of Arkansas and its wonderful people. But, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of being among the bottom ten states for almost everything that counts. So, Madam Governor, lead on!

The Southwest Airlines Debacle: What Happened?

Stranded Travelers with Southwest Airlines

The Southwest Airlines system meltdown over the Christmas holidays was perhaps the worst debacle ever in the air travel industry. The weather was a factor, but other airlines were only minimally impacted. The Southwest catastrophe that resulted in over 90 percent of its flights being canceled and tens of thousands of passengers stranded was caused essentially by poor leadership at the corporate level. This epic failure provides a classic case study of leadership.

In 1971, brilliant entrepreneur and Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, began a small Texas airline serving Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio with three Boeing 737 aircraft. With a few investors and an austere budget, Kelleher undercut fares of all other airlines operating those routes. His business model was no-frills flying, cheap tickets, streamline operations, along with fun and laughter among the crews and passengers. He spent lots of time in the trenches mixing with the employees and listening to the passengers. His style was emulated throughout the workforce from pilots to baggage handlers. Kelleher’s people-first leadership grew the corporation to capture a nation-wide market with economical, reliable, and enjoyable flight experiences. Southwest had a phenomenal reputation, loyal customers, and exceptional employee buy-in when he retired in 2004.

Gary Kelly replaced Kelleher as CEO. Kelly’s background was in accounting having been Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He chose another accountant as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Neither had any appreciable operations experience. Their focus was on capitalizing on the success and popularity of Southwest by retaining more of the profits for stockholders and external investments while cutting the operating budget. Stock prices began to soar under Kelly’s leadership, but necessities like maintenance, technology, capital improvements, and employee benefits tended to suffer. This priority of financial growth at the expense of internal investment filtered down through the lower management levels. For two decades, Southwest lagged behind other major airlines in upgrades to automation of crew scheduling as well as passenger and baggage handling. Terminal equipment and processes were not sufficiently modernized. Operational effectiveness and efficiency had taken a back seat to financial goals. The airline labor union repeatedly raised warnings of the airline being on a trajectory of failure and in dire need of capital infusion. But the warnings fell on deaf ears at corporate headquarters.

When Kelly retired in early 2022, his successor, Bob Jordan, inherited a mammoth enterprise that was operationally handicapped from years of negligent leadership. Southwest exhibited a healthy composition on the outside but was grievously wounded on the inside. Although it had the management processes and infrastructure to conduct normal operations, it only took a brutal winter snow event to inflict almost total paralysis. The corporation’s insufficient infrastructure and outdated technology rendered it far inferior to its competitors in keeping planes moving. Jordan had begun some restorative initiatives, but they were still being developed when the Christmas crisis hit. He appears to be from the same mold as the founder, Kelleher. He is operations and people oriented. But it will take a few years to correct the course of this iconic corporation. A lot of that course correction will be the culling of ensconced middle managers from earlier years who have made a career of misplaced priorities.

All leaders, from those of small organizations to major corporations, can learn a lot from the saga of Southwest Airlines. Finances are important and must be attended to. But, put your employees and your customers first, and the finances will usually fall in line. Those principles were hammered into me in both undergraduate and graduate management courses. Yet, too many seem to give them a nod in school but forget them in the workplace.

What You Should Know About the Salvation Army

My wife and I have been plucking cards from Salvation Army Angel trees around Christmas time for several years. We have enjoyed shopping for the needs and wishes of disadvantaged children in our community. This year, for the first time, I also volunteered, along with my fellow church elders, to help distribute the hundreds of donated Angel Tree gifts to the families of these children. In doing so, I got a whole new perspective of the Salvation Army. Here’s what I learned.

Frustrated that his church in England wasn’t sharing the gospel with most of those who needed it in 1852, minister William Booth abandoned the pulpit to preach to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute on the streets of London. Within a few years, hundreds from all over England including many converts joined his street evangelism ministry which he referred to in 1878 as the Salvation Army. As they became more structured and organized, this Army identified its management hierarchy with military officer ranks and began wearing uniforms. The top leaders were generals with a subordinate cascade of colonels to lieutenants depending on levels of responsibility and experience. In 1881, Booth’s organization launched an offensive throughout the British Isles that converted over 250,000 to Christianity. The movement spread rapidly gaining a foothold in America and several other countries.

In 1879, Eliza Shirley at age 17 pioneered the Salvation Army of the United States after serving with Booth in England. Joining her parents who had recently immigrated to Philadelphia, she began a mission which grew into peace and hope for the needy of the nation.

Today, the Salvation Army is active in almost every country in the world. It has one of the lowest administrative cost percentages of all charities at just 18 percent. All donations designated for a particular disaster relief effort go directly to that effort without any of it being used for administrative expenses.

My experience this Christmas with the annual Angel Tree project supported the Hot Springs, Arkansas, mission in distributing toys and clothing to the families of almost 500 needy children. Parents were scheduled to come by the warehouse at specific times. They would first attend a brief gospel message by a local pastor, then line up to receive their children’s gifts. My fellow church elders and I, along with several other volunteers, loaded shopping carts with bags of gifts for the specific kids as listed on the Angel Tree cards and purchased by generous donors. We were introduced to each parent or parents receiving the gifts and walked with them to their vehicles as we conversed with them. After loading their vehicles, we prayed with them and wished them a blessed and merry Christmas then started the process over again. The event was very well organized. Almost 200 families heard the gospel and received the gifts in less than four hours.

Of course, the Angel Tree project is just one of many, many projects and ministries carried out continuously throughout the year by the Salvation Army. They feed the poor and homeless. They provide shelter during the coldest days of winter and hottest days of summer for those in need of basic comforts. They are quickly on scene to help with all kinds of disasters. Their thrift stores not only supplement their revenue needs but also provide low-cost clothing and household goods for those struggling economically. They have a women’s ministry that focuses on women’s health and special needs. They maintain connection with local hospitals, nursing homes, retirement centers, and rehabilitation facilities. In all these ministries, they keep their top priority as it has been from the 19th century: evangelism.

So, when I see the folks standing next to those red kettles ringing bells during the holidays, I’m now giving them more than a smile and a nod. And let’s remember that this Army’s need for resources are year-round, not just when the kettles come out. Donate regularly including clothing and household goods for their thrift stores.

Seeking a Return to Goodness

During the Christmas season, does America’s infatuation with icons of the past, old Christmas movies, and cheesy Hallmark movies tell us something about ourselves? Maybe something positive? Does it reflect our yearning for a kinder, gentler country? I believe it does, and here’s why.

My attitude about Christmas movies is conflicted. On the one hand, I can’t get excited about the annual repeated parade of the same old classics, and I am repulsed by the tripe that passes for new Christmas releases. On the other hand, I often watch both screen categories during the holiday season. There is just something about those simple stories that gives me to a feeling of goodness and a respite from the real world. The high ratings these movies get indicate that many in our society are yearning for the values of small-town America and days gone by. Why else would millions sit for hours in front of a TV watching a poorly written, low-budget movie with amateur actors in totally predictable plots? It’s always about someone from the big city who goes to a small town and falls in love with someone who already has a love interest. The screen writers all use the same plot and just change the names and venues. Yet, people are driven to these movies because of the void in their hearts that longs for the authenticity, simplicity, and unconditional love characterized in the stories. They need to reconnect with the more peaceful, more civil, and simpler times when America was, well, just better.

Americans in general want to return to a time of goodness. Maybe it should be described as a time of godliness. We see our nation moving in a direction contrary to our ideology, yet we are caught up in the mainstream and can’t seem to escape. We find consolation in retreating temporarily to more meaningful times of the past. Realistically, those times were not as good as our memories of them, but they were heavenly compared to today’s social culture. So, how can we be influenced by these movies to become more like them–to reverse the present political and societal mess and return to better times? Cultures only change as individuals change, and we can only change one individual–ourself. To borrow a concept from Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker, we can draw a circle around ourself and change everyone in that circle.

I am very concerned about the lack of civility, disrespect, animosity toward others, and absence of personal sacrifice that characterize America today. There is little I can do about it other than pray and make sure I’m not contributing to it. So, with God’s help, I’m going to continue striving to be more like the people in those Christmas movies. I hope you will, too.

The Respect for Marriage Act Is Bad for America

Groups celebrate gay marriage after Senate vote

On Tuesday, November 29, the Senate passed the so-called Respect for Marriage Act. The misnamed Act passed by a vote of 61-36 with 12 Republicans voting for it. The Act, sure to pass in the House, will codify gay marriage into federal law which will further speed America’s race to the bottom of moral values and Christian principles. Let’s take a serious look at this legislation.

In the Obergefell v. Hodges 5-4 decision in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutional and must be protected. That case and the earlier Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act gave robust rights and benefits to “married” same-sex couples. With these cases, the American justice system thumbed its nose at the historical sanctity of marriage according to God’s Word. The current legislation will forever enshrine into law the marital rights of same-sex couples without the possibility of reconsideration by the courts.

The House passed the bill last July by a vote of 267-157 with all Democrats and 47 Republicans voting for it. The Senate’s slight revision will now go back to the House for final congressional passage and the President’s signing. With the power of federal law and well-defined rights of same-sex married couples, businesses and other organizations including churches opposing such marriage will find their morals and values under constant threat.

It is sad when many individuals form opinions opposing biblical truth. It is worse when the majority of Americans form opinions opposing biblical truth. It is inviting God’s judgment and wrath on our nation when our government makes and enforces laws opposing biblical truth. With this bill, America is proclaiming that man’s law supersedes God’s law. In the Bible, God makes it abundantly clear that marriage between one man and one woman is His plan for His ultimate creation–mankind. Then He says those who violate that plan: …exchanged the truth of God for a lie…God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. Although they know the ordinance of God, …they also give hearty approval to those who practice (such things) (Romans 1).

Romans 1 is explicit about the results of corrupting God’s one woman-one man plan for sexual fulfillment and procreation. It also condemns those who approve or tolerate such behavior. Most of our culture has become convinced that, even though they don’t practice homosexuality and gay marriage, it is okay, even commendable, to ignore it or tolerate it. That is an unbiblical lie.

Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Lummis of Wyoming were among Republicans voting for the Respect for Marriage Act. They claim that they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, but that everyone’s private life should be respected and tolerated. Major religious institutions are supporting gay marriage now. The United Methodist Church, the second largest protestant denomination in America, has bought into the sham along with several other denominations. The official statement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, “Supportive (of the Act) as long as it doesn’t infringe on religions to believe what they choose.” Really? I am ashamed that my generation has let this societal disease creep into our culture. When it reaps its consequences, how will I explain to my grandchildren that my generation let it happen?

The train has left the station, and Bible-believers have apparently lost this one. I will pray often and more earnestly that God will use this as a wake-up call for America to start reversing course in our determination to test His mercy and patience. We should be constantly reminded of God’s words just before the flood that destroyed almost all of civilization: My Spirit shall not strive with man forever… (Genesis 6). We may be on the brink of national collapse from the weight of spiritual darkness we have allowed into our culture.

Thanksgiving Trivia for Family Gatherings

Even with all the chaos and evil around us, we have so much to be thankful for in America today. We should thank the Lord every day for the goodness, beauty, and love we are blessed to experience. As we observe the national holiday of Thanksgiving, let us be grateful to God for what we have above all other nations. Here are a dozen Thanksgiving trivia questions and answers for your enjoyment:

1. Which President made Thanksgiving a national holiday?

2. What President began the tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey?

3. What meat did the native Americans bring to the first Thanksgiving?

4. What culture produced the idea of the cornucopia, the horn of plenty?

5. About how many turkeys are eaten in America each Thanksgiving? 120 million, 280 million, or 410 million?

6. What percentage of Americans eat turkey each Thanksgiving? 65, 76, or 88?

7. What was the first department store to hold a Thanksgiving Day parade?

8. Indians from what tribe accompanied the pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving?

9. Before sailing the Pilgrims across the Atlantic, the Mayflower was used for what purpose?

10. A native American bird, the turkey was first shipped to Europe from what state?

11. How many American Presidents were descendants of Mayflower passengers? One, three, six, or eight?

12. What popular Christmas song originated as a Thanksgiving song?

Answers:

1. Abraham Lincoln declared Nov. 26th as the official Thanksgiving holiday. It was later changed to the fourth Thursday in November by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2. Although a few earlier Presidents jokingly pardoned a turkey before Thanksgiving, George H. W. Bush established the annual tradition in 1989, and it has been done by every subsequent President each year.

3. Deer (venison)

4. The Greek culture made the cornucopia popular in mythology.

5. 280 million

6. 88

7. Not Macy’s. It was Gimbel’s.

8. Ninety Wampanoag Indians were at the first Thanksgiving.

9. A wine hauling vessel

10. Florida. The Spaniards brought it back to Spain.

11. Eight. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and, therefore, George W. Bush.

12. Jingle Bells. James Lloyd Pierpont wrote the song to commemorate the Thanksgiving Day sleigh races at Medford, Massachusetts.

Midterm Elections Reveal the Spiritual State of the Union

This 2022 midterm election was supposed to be the turning point that would put America back on the path of moral sensitivity and spiritual awakening. Sanctity of life, law and order, personal responsibility, and family values were all on the ballot. Although there were gains from the Christian perspective, they were far short of expectations. Our nation that proclaims “in God we trust” showed little regard at the polls for that motto.

The recent Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade drew several states to voter referendums on solidifying abortion rights. Kentucky, Vermont, Michigan, Montana, and California each proposed various amendments ensuring abortion access. Abortion rights prevailed in all five states. Kansans had already approved an abortion rights law in August.

Crime is a crisis in America, particularly homicides and drug trafficking. Yet, crime prevention was not a winning election strategy this year. Republican Lee Zeldin of New York ran on a strong anti-crime campaign against the state’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul. Hochul had been strongly criticized by both parties for her liberal bail reform laws. Yet she won by more than 300,000 votes. In Pennsylvania, Senate hopeful, Dr. Mehmet Oz, ran largely on conservative crime policies. His opponent, John Fetterman, aside from his health issues, carried a lot of soft-on-crime baggage including fighting for record clemency and early release of prisoners. Fetterman won by five percentage points. Nation-wide exit polls showed that only 11 percent of voters said crime was a top issue influencing their votes.

The priorities of other moral and spiritual issues were reflected in the candidates chosen. Americans are reluctant to define Democrats and Republicans by their religious association. But it is inescapable. The Democratic platform is substantially more liberal in its alignment with biblical principles and values. The Republican platform is much more reflective of those principles and values. So, when the midterm “red wave” was predicted, it portended a trend back to the moral and spiritual traditions many believers were hoping for. It was looking like a victory for personal freedoms, family values, and general biblical precepts. Then there was last Tuesday. There were many more Democrats elected than the polls predicted. The red wave was more of a red ripple.

The Republican anticipated super-majority in the House turned into a potential razor-thin advantage. The The expected Senate majority may be reduced to 50-50 again depending on what happens in the December Georgia runoff. The perceived Christian conservative movement just didn’t materialize. Christian values are not being played out at the voting booth. The question is whether we are a Christian nation anymore. Among voters nationwide, only 4 in 10 say they attend religious services at least monthly. Only a fifth say they go once a week or more. About a third say they never attend. Most Democrats say they attend religious services even less frequently. Seventy percent say they go to church less than monthly. Among Republicans, 46 percent attend at least monthly. So, over half of Republicans have little commitment to their faith. Furthermore, voter apathy among Christians is prevalent in America with only two-thirds of registered voters voting.

From these observations, I have to conclude that Americans in general have little desire and motivation to recover from our downward spiral burdened by moral weakness and spiritual indifference. The problem is not the candidates, the strategy, or the finances. The problem is the voters. Only God can ignite the souls of His people to lead the course correction of a nation. Usually, He only does that after true repentance and desperately crying out in prayer for His intervention. Isn’t it time to step up, share your concern with others, and change the spiritual state of the Union? Aren’t your children and your future generations worth that?

Arkansans: Don’t Oppose Issue 3 by Overreading!

Many Arkansas voters who strongly support religious freedom are opposing Ballot Issue 3, the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment, for an invalid reason. Social media frenzy and distrust of government is causing a paranoia among some Christian voters that could stop a state constitutional amendment benefiting religious freedom. Let’s look at this issue more closely.

In 2015, the Arkansas legislature passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Act 975. This Act mirrors federal law and the laws of many other states protecting religious freedoms. It simply endorsed religious freedom specifically for Arkansas. It states that government cannot substantially burden a person’s religious liberty unless it is necessary to further a compelling governmental interest and the government uses the least restrictive means possible to further its compelling interest. That is on the books now, but the legislature and courts can always remove it rather easily in the future. That is why it needs to be ensconced in the Arkansas Constitution.

Issue 3 in this election, the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment, is virtually the same wording as the existing Arkansas statute. It was drafted by two of the most conservative Christian members of the Arkansas legislature and passed as a recommended amendment by a large majority of the House and Senate. The objective was to strengthen and protect religious freedom as well as make it very difficult and unlikely for the government to intervene in religious matters.

The hang-up for some voters is the exception for government to intervene. This exception is absolutely necessary. Something like it is included in every religious liberty act and amendment in the country, and rightly so. Otherwise, the government would not be allowed to act against cults, fanatics, and even terrorists who claim to be acting according to their religion. What if someone proclaimed spouse beating was a religious right. What if a group decided it was against their religion to pay any taxes? What if an entire religious sect said their beliefs do not allow pictures of themselves under any circumstances? Wouldn’t we want the government to take these “religious freedom” claimants to court or deny them other freedoms as a result of their claims? That is why the exception clause is necessary but extremely restricted by the phrases “compelling interest” and “least restrictive means possible.”

Organizations that are supportive (or FOR) Issue 3 include Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Alliance Defending Freedom. Organizations that are opposed (or AGAINST) Issue 3 include ACLU of Arkansas, The Arkansas Public Policy Panel, and The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

My concern is that we could lose a highly advantageous opportunity to advance religious liberty in Arkansas over the misinterpretation of a sentence that will always, by necessity, be a part of any religious freedom statute or amendment. Even if one remains convinced the exception clause in this proposed amendment is a red herring that negates its intent, the amendment’s defeat would just take us back to the existing statute that says the same thing but is more vulnerable to government interference.

Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face. Vote “FOR” Issue 3.

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