|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state's draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.
No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee's tendency to believe such pious testimonials. "I come from a very good Christian family and I was raised much better than my actions speak," he explained in his clemency application in 2000. "I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family's name ... I have never done anything good for God, but I've prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I'm humbly appealing to you for a brand new start."
I wrote about Dumond and another Arkansas convict, Frankie Parker, almost two years ago in “A Tale of Two Prisoners.” For reasons explained in the earlier post, Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, was pressured by the Christian Right into pardoning Dumond.
But the Christian Right kept silence on Frankie Parker, who was executed in 1996 over the objections of Mother Theresa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In fact, Governor Huckabee was so keen to execute Frankie Parker that he intervened to move the execution date up by six weeks so that Parker could be executed sooner. He was so keen to execute Parker that moving up the execution date was Huckabee’s first official proclamation as Governor of Arkansas. Clearly, this was an itch that Huckabee was rarin’ to scratch.
It is true that Parker was convicted of committing two murders while under the influence of drugs. He admitted he had done this. He wasn’t asking for a pardon; just life.
What made Frankie Parker’s life so untenable? In prison, he had acquired a copy of the Dhammapada, which inspired him to convert to Buddhism. He corresponded with a Zen priest and also worked with a Little Rock Buddhist group to learn the practice. He became a spiritual leader within the prison. A Buddhist spiritual leader. Can’t have that.
So if people are wondering why Mike Huckabee took it upon himself to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmons, look for a religious angle. I don’t know that there is one, but I’ll be surprised if there isn’t.