Huckabee Delayed Disaster Aid Because Insurance Term "Act of God" Offended Him
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On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Baptist preacher claimed his record in office proves that he does not allow his religion to influence his governing:
Never would I want to use the government institutions to impose my or anybody else's faith or to restrict...
If people want to know how I would blend these issues, the best way to look at it is how I served as a governor. I didn't ever propose a bill that we would remove the Capitol dome of Arkansas and replace it with a steeple. You know, we didn't do tent revivals on the grounds of the Capitol. But my faith is important to me.
While it's true he didn't pursue the red herrings of replacing domes with steeples or holding tent revivals on public property, he did allow his faith to interfere with his governing in a way that could have had serious consequences.
In March 1997, after a tornado ripped through Arkadelphia killing six people and destroying over 70 businesses downtown, Gov. Huckabee held up disaster assistance to the town of 10,000 people for weeks because he objected to an insurance industry term of art that labeled the destruction an "act of God."
Senate Bill 491 was so straightforward it ran to only two pages. It sought to protect tornado victims from insurance companies that might cancel policies after they filed claims. "No insurance policy or contract covering damages to property shall be canceled nor the renewal thereof denied solely as a result of claims arising from acts of God," it read.
"Acts of God" had a long history in English maritime law and was standard language in many insurance policies...
According to state legislative records, Huckabee first registered his objection to the Senate bill five days after the tornado. But his staff did not relay his concerns, he later wrote.
"While I realize that to some this is a minor issue, it is a matter of deep conscience with me to attribute in law a destructive and deadly force as being an 'act of God,' " he eventually wrote to the bill's sponsors, [state Rep. Dennis R.] Young and Sen. Wayne Dowd. While acknowledging that "acts of God" was the "appropriate" legal term, he suggested the legislature substitute "natural disaster."
While an entire city in his state stood in ruins, Huckabee's dithering over religious semantics angered legislators in both parties. Biblically oriented pols suggested that the governor had forgotten the series of woes God visited upon Job. And the local paper in Texarkana editorialized that the governor should "sacrifice a bit of his personal theology for the greater public good. That would be an act of God,"