By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
There are things you come to expect in life.
That the Alabama Legislature would serve us all much better by not meeting — ever. That an elderly person’s ability to shut off a ringing cell phone is determined by the number of people in the room. That strip mall stores with double doors will inexplicably keep one of them locked.
And that the daycare center where you send your children each morning is licensed by the State and someone somewhere drops by every now and then to at least make sure they’re not keeping the space heaters burning by the curtains.
All of that is true. Except for the last one.
In Alabama, church-affiliated daycare centers are not required to obtain a State license.
That means no one comes by to check on the kids. No one comes by to make sure there are enough smoke detectors and emergency exits. No one ensures the safety of the food.
If that sounds insane to you, you’re not alone.
Supporters of a bill that would change that and force church daycares to also receive a license and be subjected to regulations made its way through a House committee on Wednesday. The public hearing drew in a standing room-only crowd that spilled out into the hallway.
Why, I’m not sure.
Because once the arguments back and forth started it became quite clear that one side had common sense, facts, statistics and decent human behavior on its side. And the other side’s argument was, essentially, “But we don’t want to, because … Jesus.”
I’m serious. They had nothing.
Outside of their real excuse – that they don’t want to obtain the license because doing so would cost money – the closest they got to an actual excuse was saying that the Department of Human Resources’ license could prevent the religious daycares from teaching religion.
That’s not true, and the bill made sure of that with specific language stating that licensing didn’t dictate curriculum, but still, it was fun to watch so many church pastors and members walk to a lectern and demand a separation of church and state in schools. There’s a saying about an ox that applies here.
There was an attempt at constitutional argument. It was made by (alleged) attorney Eric Johnston, who has never encountered an issue that he couldn’t twist into a constitutional violation of some sorts. In this case, he was claiming that equal application of the license requirement would somehow infringe upon the separation of church and state.
This, of course, is idiotic. But someone somewhere paid Johnston to say something, so he did.
The hearing was over when former Rep. Joe Hubbard, an attorney in Montgomery now, started speaking about the 86 children who contracted staph at a Montgomery facility two years ago. That facility had been closed by DHR after multiple violations, including leaving a kid in a locked van by mistake, but opened several weeks later as a “church-affiliated daycare” without a license and without DHR oversight.
The reopening occurred a few months before the 86 staph infections.
In the words of Chris Rock: Grand opening. Grand closing.
The committee did not receive this information well. Apparently, the teachings of Jesus did not include toddlers with staph.
So, the bill passed out of the committee and will head to the floor for a vote.
There should be no real debate over it. Unless the church daycares can round up enough PAC donations.
In which case, what’s the big deal about a little staph?