Last week the Washington County Quorum Court County Services committee met to discuss a few items, one of which was a resolution to declare the county a “Pro Life” county. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Springdale city council did the same thing a couple of years ago. I’m not frustrated that this is coming up again because I’m pro-choice, I’m frustrated because once again our elected officials are spending time (and my money!) debating a resolution that does absolutely NOTHING to serve their constituents – the taxpayers of Washington County. Then there’s the fact that it includes a literal Bible verse, which is a whole other problem in a diverse county like ours.
You may have noticed the pro-life folks try to spin their efforts to pass these resolutions as being about more than abortion. As Mayor Sprouse says at the end of the news story linked above, they will tell you that the council and the court are declaring their support for ALL people – not just the unborn – from conception to death. But the idea that saying those words and signing a piece of paper make it so is insulting. And it’s offensive that they don’t even care that we know they’re lying.
My elders taught me that actions speak louder than words.
So, now here comes the Washington County Quorum Court, following in Springdale’s regressive footsteps and creating their own resolution. Like Springdale’s, this resolution is – by the QC’s own admission – useless. Once again, the Justices of the Peace who are promoting it tell us that it’s about supporting ALL life in Washington County, but once again, those are just words. It doesn’t make any county resident’s life better, safer, or healthier.
The Springdale resolution was allegedly not intended to prevent Planned Parenthood from putting a clinic in the city, but of course that wasn’t true. It was very specifically written to send a message that the pending sale of a building that would house a PP clinic on South Thompson was unwanted, and the landlord pulled the deal off the table after the resolution passed. In the same way, the county resolution is also about sending a message. This resolution is simply another performative piece of lip-service to fire up the folks who will support any candidate who claims to be “pro-life” with their donations and votes come election season. It’s the worst kind of politicking, and it doesn’t serve the county in any way.
And that bible verse quoted in the resolution? According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, in 2010 Washington County was home to 92,359 individuals who didn’t classify themselves as a member of one of the forty-five faith traditions or denominations the organization tracks. Compare that to the 110,706 individuals who did claim one of those labels, and it’s easy to see that almost half of the people the Washington County Justices of the Peace were elected to serve may not participate in a faith that uses the Christian Bible as their holy book. How can a JP claim to be considering ALL of Washington County while proposing a resolution that is so clearly based on one specific religious belief?
The answer is they can’t. Not without violating the constitutional standing of the separation of church and state. The resolution’s attempt to redefine the “pro-life” stance is bad enough, but including that Bible verse violates the first amendment. They are arrogant in their assumption that they speak for the 92,000+ people in the county who do not share their beliefs.
You can’t pretend to welcome and serve ALL while literally only speaking for 55% of your constituents. When I go to the polls to elect representatives, I vote for people who are committed to leaving their personal faith at home and in their respective places of worship. I vote for JPs and City Council representatives to balance a budget, manage infrastructure needs, and make decisions and write ordinances that affect the health and safety of citizens. Period. This resolution does none of that. It should be voted down in the upcoming Quorum Court meeting on July 15th.