While serving as lieutenant governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee once requested the state's attorney general to issue an opinion on whether a high school health class on AIDS prevention violated the law because it "legitimized" homosexuality.
The class, called "Preventing AIDS," was taught in Mountain Home, Arkansas, public schools. The program featured a "three-day discussion on AIDS and how the disease is transmitted," which was optional for students to attend. The school had said only a handful of students opted out of the discussion, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Huckabee questioned whether the class violated the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act and whether it abided by state law requiring public schools "emphasize premarital abstinence" to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Then-state Assistant Attorney General Elisabeth Walker said the program did not conflict with state and federal law.
"It wasn't an issue I felt like I needed to determine. That's not my job," said Huckabee in 1994. "But based on what I saw in the curriculum, I felt there were some legitimate questions that needed to be answered."
Walker's opinion discussed Huckabee's objections to the program. These include claims that the course violates religious freedom and parental rights, runs afoul of an Arkansas law requiring abstinence-only sexual education, and "is sanctioning behavior and indeed instructing in behavior contrary to religious teachings (i.e., sodomy or premarital sex)."
Walker also addressed Huckabee's concern that "'homosexuality is legitimized contrary to Arkansas law'" by the course and the issue Huckabee takes with "the failure of the Curriculum to inform children of the sodomy laws in Arkansas."
In response to the first claim, Walker dismisses Huckabee's argument by writing that existing case law strongly suggested "that exposure to ideas one finds objectionable does not rise to the level of a free exercise claim."
"Having found none of the prohibited forms of governmental compulsion," Walker wrote, after a long discussion of the relevant precedents, "I must conclude that the Curriculum imposes no impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion."
Later in the opinion, Walker addressed Huckabee's "concern that homosexuality is legitimized contrary to Arkansas law."
"I am aware of no law that would prohibit the inclusion of information concerning homosexuality from a curriculum in the public schools," Walker writes. "Whether you agree or disagree with the particular facts presented, there is no legal prohibition against presenting this subject matter."
"[I]t is my opinion that the AIDS curriculum entitled 'Preventing AIDS' does not conflict with federal or state law," Walker concluded. "It appears that the issues raised in connection with this Curriculum are properly addressed to local school officials […]."
Huckabee has a tangled history with LGBT issues. He came under fire in his 2008 presidential campaign when it was revealed he wrote, in a 1992 questionnaire for the Associated Press during his failed Senate run, that people who had AIDS should be isolated from the general population.
In that 1992 questionnaire, Huckabee also called homosexuality, "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."
That year Mike Huckabee also called homosexuality "learned behavior" and said that he told gay men he counseled to "control yourself." His crime plan from that campaign also proposed the death penalty for people who knowingly transmitted the AIDS virus.
Here's the full opinion from 1994 from the state's assistant attorney general:
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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