Arkansas honors Robert E. Lee on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

A bid to end Arkansas’ practice of commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day was rejected by lawmakers Wednesday after opponents said the move would belittle Southern heritage.

The proposal would have removed Lee from the state holiday honoring King.

Arkansas is one of three states to jointly celebrate the two on the third Monday in January.

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected the proposal by a voice vote. The proposal called for designating Nov. 30 as “Patrick Cleburne – Robert E. Lee Southern Heritage Day,” a state memorial day but not a legal holiday.

Cleburne was a Confederate general who lived in east Arkansas.

The legislation also would have repealed a state law declaring June 3 as a state memorial day in honor of former Confederacy President Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

“This bill is not a bill meant to disregard heritage or to downplay history. It is not a bill to cause division of conflict,” said Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock), who presented the measure to the panel.

“The spirit of this bill is to allow Arkansans to honor our heritage and honor our progress without them being in conflict with each other.”

But opponents of the measure packed the committee hearing room, with several saying the Legislature was insulting their heritage.

John Crain, an attorney from Mountain Home, said removing Lee from the holiday would tell him “my ancestry and my heritage is not worth honoring.”

“I think Martin Luther King, if he were here today standing beside me, would tell you, ‘Why can’t we celebrate a birthday of two men, one of color and a white man?’ ” Crain said. “Surely we’ve progressed that far in our race relationships.”

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – New York Daily News –

Pope: There are limits to free speech

Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith, in comments that the Vatican later said Friday did not mean justifying the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines on Thursday, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

His pretend punch aside, Francis by no means said the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo was justified. Quite the opposite: He said such horrific violence in God’s name couldn’t be justified and was an “aberration.” But he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, issued a statement early Friday stressing that the pope was by no means justifying the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

“Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight,” he said in a statement.

He said Francis’ words were “spoken colloquially and in a friendly, intimate manner among colleagues and friends on the journey.” He noted that Francis has spoken out clearly against the Paris attacks and that violence in God’s name can never be justified.

By NICOLE WINFIELD – Associated Press –