Letter: Religious Leaders Thank Governor Hutchinson for RFRA

IMG_6798Shortly before the Arkansas Legislature adjourned, Governor Hutchinson signed Act 975, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This good law protects religious liberty in Arkansas from further erosion. It is based on federal law as well as similar laws in 20 other states.

Alliance Defending Freedom joined Family Council and more than 30 ministers, religious leaders, and organizations in sending Governor Hutchinson a letter last week thanking him for signing this good bill into law.

You can see a copy of the letter and a list of its signatories here.

Governor’s Office to Work with DHS to Protect Home Schoolers

For the past several days we have been in communication with Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office about how S.B. 810 will be implemented.

As you may be aware, S.B. 810 directs the Child Maltreatment Hotline to resume accepting reports regarding educational neglect. Prior to 2013, public school officials could report educational neglect to the hotline; in 2013 the Arkansas Legislature changed the law regarding the procedures public school officials use in reporting educational neglect so that they could not report directly to the hotline.

Public school officials maintain S.B. 810 is necessary to clarify that, as mandatory-reporters of child abuse, they can place calls to the Child Maltreatment Hotline, and that the bill is necessary to address truancy and educational neglect that is currently not being resolved among public school families.

Many home schoolers are understandably concerned this bill will give adversaries of home schooling a way to harass innocent home school families. The truth is, however, adversaries of home schooling already have the ability to file frivolous “educational neglect” reports against home school families, and even attorneys at DHS have acknowledged to us that having a valid Notice of Intent to Home School is enough to resolve an educational neglect report with or without S.B. 810.

The bottom line is a home schooler with a valid Notice of Intent to Home School cannot be charged with truancy, is not neglecting the education of their children, and should have very little to worry about under S.B. 810.

However, to put minds at ease we have asked Governor Hutchinson to work with the Department of Education and Department of Human Services to craft an executive memo, rule, or regulation protecting home schoolers from frivolous reports filed with the Child Maltreatment Hotline under S.B. 810, and we are working on clarifying language that could be added to S.B. 810 to ensure it will not be used against innocent home school families.

Last night Governor Hutchinson’s office informed us that the governor has received many calls from home schoolers regarding S.B. 810; that he has looked carefully at the bill; and that his office will work closely with DHS going forward to guard against any misuse of S.B. 810.

Governor Hutchinson’s office has expressed a sincere interest to protect home schoolers from any misapplication of S.B. 810, and we take Governor Hutchinson at his word. We have also been in communication with Secretary of State Mark Martin about the ramifications of S.B. 810.

Many people have asked how soon the Arkansas Legislature may be able to clarify that S.B. 810 will not adversely impact home schoolers.

The Arkansas Legislature has adjourned for the year. However, Governor Hutchinson indicated today that a special session is likely sometime in the near future. If the governor calls a special session of the Arkansas Legislature, he could include amendments to S.B. 810 among the reasons for that special session. If he chooses to do that, the Arkansas Legislature could address the concerns of home schoolers sometime in the very near future.

If you would like to encourage Governor Hutchinson to include clarifications to S.B. 810 in his call for a special legislative session, you can leave a message for him at (501) 682-2345, and you can send him an email at http://governor.arkansas.gov/contact-info.

Updated: Why Did 2 Ambulances Go to the Little Rock Abortion Clinic?

Last February, pro-life volunteers praying outside Little Rock’s surgical abortion clinic posted pictures and video on Facebook of an ambulance visiting the clinic and transporting a woman away.

A few weeks later, pro-life volunteers praying outside the same clinic as part of 40 Days for Life shared videos and photos on Facebook of another ambulance transporting another woman away.

Although many people might assume an ambulance at an abortion clinic is indicative of a botched abortion, we wanted to investigate the matter further before jumping to any conclusion. Recently we sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Little Rock Ambulance Authority and Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) asking for any and all documents and files related to the two incidents.

In response, we received two heavily redacted 911 recordings; redacted recordings of the dispatchers sending emergency personnel to the scene; redacted ambulance trip details; and redacted screenshots of the 911 operators’ computer screens at the times each of the calls was made.

According to attorneys for the City of Little Rock, medical information recorded on a 911 tape is exempt from disclosure under Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act and must be redacted. As a result, the city redacted all information related to each patient’s condition–including information about what prompted the calls and any injuries the patients had suffered.

We spoke with multiple attorneys of our own, and not all of them agree that the redactions were appropriate. However, we have decided to share what little bit of information we were able to glean from the redacted files.

The first call to 911 was placed on the morning of Saturday, February 7. The redacted “Trip Details” sheet and screenshots we received from the Little Rock Ambulance Authority list the nature of the call as “[A] Sick Person” and “[A] Medical Emergency.”

The second call to 911 was placed on the morning of Wednesday, March 11. The redacted files we received from the Little Rock Ambulance Authority list the nature of the call as “Hemmorhage/Lacerations [sic].” The files and 911 tape both note that the patient was in the clinic’s OR Room at the time of the call.

Both calls request the patients be transported to UAMS in Little Rock for emergency evaluation.

Due to the extensive redaction of the calls and documents, it is impossible to determine anything certain about either situation other than they were both emergencies involving women at the abortion clinic. It is well documented that abortion can lead to many complications, including, among other things, infection, hemorrhaging, and even death. Given the circumstances, a person might reasonably assume the two emergencies were related to abortion. However, with so little information, we cannot even determine if either woman was seeking an abortion, much less that these two situations were complications resulting from abortion.

However, there are three things I believe everyone can do in response to this information:

  • The first is pray for these women.
  • The second is continue to pray that abortion in Arkansas will end.
  • And the third is continue to support efforts to make Arkansas a more pro-life state.

Click here to listen to the redacted 911 tape from February 7.

Click here to listen to the redacted 911 tape from March 11.

Click here to see the redacted dispatchers’ screenshots and reports.

Updated 4:15 PM, 4/13/2015: Officials from the Arkansas Department of Health inform us the woman transported from the abortion clinic on March 11 was taken to a local hospital where she was observed overnight before being released. We do not have any information regarding the woman transported to the hospital on February 7 at this time.