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Fishers of men or fools?

While historians can’t say for certain exactly how April 1 came to be celebrated as April Fools’ Day, most proffer a religious connection dating to 1582. Most scholars believe the day has its origins in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” — named after himself — which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to Jan. 1.

Extremists count on your credulity

On Friday, the Arkansas Senate passed House Bill 1228 (SB 202), a bill to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Supporters assert that the bill would offer protections to individuals and businesses who do not want to serve certain individuals based on their religious beliefs. The bill is now headed back to the House for a final amendment approval. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Ted Cruz and the Born-Again GOP

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill making “In God We Trust” the nation’s official motto, but his approach to religion was not excessive in its rigor. “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious belief,” he once declared, “and I don’t care what it is.”

BUMPY RIDES ON HIGHWAYS MAY LAST

On Interstate 40 near Brinkley a couple of weeks ago, I drove past a sign reading something like, “Big pothole ahead.” I can’t recall ever before seeing a road sign like that on an interstate, but it was certainly accurate. Actually, “crater” would have been a better word.

Starving the beast only made it hungrier

Some time in the 1970s, the Republican Party pledged allegiance to a strategy known as “starve the beast,” which said that the way to reduce the size of government was to reduce the taxes going into it. President Reagan in 1981 used another metaphor: reducing children’s allowance. Democrats, happy to increase government without paying for it, largely acquiesced.

Time to use animal cruelty laws

With the recent death of De’Trick Johnson, the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County are forced to recognize the flaws in our local culture of animal keeping. While county lawmakers have been largely mute on the twined issues of dangerous dogs and animal cruelty, the Pine Bluff City Council chose to address the problems with ineffectual and uninformed “breed specific” ordinances. These ordinances do little other than punish the dog for the crimes of the owner.

To walk fall and rise

Fifty years ago this week, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev sent this congratulatory message to cosmonaut Alexei Leonov as he orbited the Earth: “We members of the Politburo are here sitting and watching what you are doing. We are proud of you. We wish you success. Take care. We await your safe arrival on Earth.”

More than crumbling buildings

If you ever wondered why people have left Pine Bluff, all you needed to do was attend the recent emergency city council meeting on Monday. At that meeting council members were confronted with the specter of an imminent catastrophe and chose to do nothing. It was a shameful display of myopic lunacy. If they are racing toward oblivion, they are making good headway.

Reason prevails in Senate committee, not Gov.’s office

While the current manifestation of the Arkansas legislature has been more miss than hit, reason prevailed this past Wednesday as the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to refer House Bill 1228, the so-called Conscience Protection Act, to the full Senate. The bill, authored by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, would have prohibited the state from interceding in matters of conscience due to a person’s religious beliefs unless the state has a substantial interest in doing so, and does so by the least restrictive means possible.

Do you believe in miracles?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s surprise victory over the global Leviathan of hockey, the Soviet Union. The triumph is often called “the Miracle on Ice.” As modern “miracles” sometimes do, a great mythology has grown up around this storied game.

The day the music died

Symphony orchestras all across America are struggling both financially and in terms of relevancy. American appetites for cultural products have changed over the last 20 years. One of the more notable casualties has been a precipitous decline in live orchestral music. While orchestras, such as the now closing Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra, are reeling from the sting of it all, they are hardly alone.