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Upholding free speech

by Mike Masterson | March 7, 2015 at 3:22 a.m.

The Fayetteville group of pro-life protesters holding signs stood last week in a cold mist along Arkansas 265 near the intersection with Joyce.

Passing motorists couldn't miss them huddled side by side on the west side of the road. Those volunteers are nearly halfway through their 40 Days for Life campaign calling attention to the Planned Parenthood facility where abortions are performed.

In America, we still call this citizens peacefully and publicly exercising their First Amendment rights.

But it took a reminder letter from the Thomas More Society to the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department to convince that agency to allow the demonstrators to continue holding signs as part of their vigil.

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit public-interest law firm that handles First Amendment and other issues.

The Fayetteville group was in its eighth of 40 days to be spent standing along the highway when a highway department employee arrived to say the members had to stop displaying signs on the matter of public significance and controversy. In fact, each participant reportedly was threatened with fines ranging between $25 and $100 if they kept holding their signs along the thoroughfare.

That was until the More Society intervened with a letter to the highway administrators challenging the state's censorship of the daily pro-life gatherings as a violation of First Amendment rights.

The Highway Department, which apparently has its own legal staff, had to back-pedal and admit well after the fact how it had been mistaken to interrupt the legal protest because the protesters were holding rather than inserting them into the ground.

In a release, Sheena Archambault, who coordinated the demonstration, afterward said, "Since last week we have not been able to use signs informing people of why we are praying in front of the abortion clinic ... Thank you to Thomas More Society for working with the Department to protect our rights."

So if you are passing the intersection of 265 and Joyce in the coming weeks, you know those folks are still holding signs after being derailed for several days over a First Amendment flap that left them standing to express their feelings.

Historic bricks

They look like several wooden pallets stacked with ordinary bricks to me. It's true that looks can indeed be deceiving.

These particular worn red blocks are kinda sorta hallowed "historic" bricks sitting today in a Rogers Street Department lot along with 200 other pallets that look just like them.

In fact, this might well be the only stack of 200 bricks in history to have endured two unearthings and a lawsuit.

They finally arrived last week after the city's former City Attorney Ben Lipscomb, who admittedly got the bricks from the city in 2011 to use in building a flower garden for the front of his home, agreed to return them as part of his lengthy legal settlement with the city. He said he'd been told they were originally to have been discarded. But that must have been a misunderstanding.

The obviously valuable bricks, while but a mere drop in the vast expanse of bricks that cover the department's sprawling yard, after three months of legal wrangling will be used to make repairs to the city's streets that remain bricked. It's all part of maintaining that community charm thing, ya know.

Any city with bricked streets apparently can never have enough replacement bricks. It looks to this ole Ozarks boy like the city has enough now to pave I-49, maybe clean to Bella Vista.

Beyond 'coincidence'

Readers know I've long believed there are no coincidences in this life. I refer to mysterious synchronicities that can't be explained as so-called "Godnods."

Author Squire Rushnell originally labeled them as "Godwinks" in his best-selling book.

I read last week what strikes me as further evidence of my point, and in the most shocking way imaginable.

An ex-con named Juan Pedro Sancho Jimenez kicked in the door of a family in Orange County, California, and used the gun he was carrying to demand money. The frightened family said they didn't have any, and when it appeared an irate Jimenez was becoming even more violent, the intruder's head and body seemed to virtually explode from out of nowhere.

Turned out a meteorite fragment weighing about eight ounces had crashed through the roof and passed through Jimenez' head and body to tunnel about 15 feet into the ground beneath the home.

Think about this for a moment, my friends. A direct and fatal hit on a criminal in the act of robbing and terrorizing a family at that very moment. Even more incredible, the woman said the visitor from outer space also passed through the section of the couch where she would normally have been sitting.

The story said the Orange County Sheriff's Department investigated the seemingly miraculous incident, which is reported to be the first recorded death of a human being from a direct meteor strike.

Just imagine how far and long that meteorite traveled through space to wind up killing this home invader in that precise spot and at that very instant. The story didn't say if the couple had been praying when the visitor from Heaven arrived.


Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at

Editorial on 03/07/2015

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