religion and politics

Indictment issued in ‘acts of hate’ against TN mosque

News release from U.S. attorney’s office, Nashville

Charles Dwight Stout, III, 19, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury and charged with obstruction of justice, announced Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The charge relates to the ongoing investigation into the vandalism of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on July 10, 2017.

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Mayors clash over Bible-quoting plaque at Knoxville police headquarters

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero are at odds over a city decision to take down a plaque quoting a Bible verse that now hangs inside a Knoxville police department building.

From the News Sentinel report:

Burchett, a Republican, made the comments in a rare public critique of Rogero, a Democrat, Thursday morning, a day after she announced the city would remove the plaque hanging in the department’s Safety Building.

The plaque quotes Romans 8:31 and includes, “If God be for us, then who can be against us?”

The city is planning to take down the plaque during a Friday morning ceremony and move it to a Hall of Inspiration inside the building that will be a place where multiple quotes and sayings will be displayed.

The East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint about the plaque and threatened a lawsuit if the city did not remove it.

Burchett said the Constitution protects his Christian views, adding the city should allow the group to take them to court.

“Mayor Rogero is my friend, but I would fight this one. I wouldn’t yield to extortionists,” he said. “Ultimately, I have to answer to God not some outfit from out of town who make their living just suing people … “What I don’t understand is with atheists if they don’t believe in God, what do they care? It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.

“At some point folks that follow my belief systems are just going to be legislated out of existence and to me it is discrimination against me and my beliefs,” he said.

… Rogero issued a statement in response to Burchett’s comments Thursday afternoon.

“I’m happy to clear up some misunderstanding and overreaction to this issue. My friend Mayor Burchett will be glad to know the plaque is not being removed, it is merely being moved from one side of the doorway to the other, where it will share a room with other inspirational quotes,” Rogero said in the statement.

Note: Burchett, a former state senator, is considering a run for the 2nd District Congressional seat now held by Rep. John J. ‘Jimmy’ Duncan Jr.

The Bible may not be official TN state book, but lots of Tennesseans read and believe

Noting a report that says the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee has risen from fifth to fourth place on the American Bible Society’s rankings of the nation’s most “Bible-minded” places, the Kingsport Times-News got comments from area ministers. (Chattanooga is No. 1). The report is based on polling that asks respondents about their frequency of Bible reading and belief in the Bible’s accuracy.

An excerpt:

Marvin Cameron, pastor at First Baptist Church in Kingsport, said he believes the Tri-Cities’ high ranking speaks to this region’s heritage.

“I think that’s just a part of who we are,” Cameron said. “It’s part of who we’ve been growing up, and it’s something that stays with us for a lifetime.”

To encourage Bible-mindedness at First Baptist, Cameron said he prepares a daily devotional that is sent to the congregation by email. The devotional includes a daily scripture reading and a few paragraphs of reflection.

The American Bible Society report is HERE. First paragraphs:

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House votes to praise God for liberty in TN Constitution

The House voted 69-17 Monday evening in favor of adding this sentence to the Tennessee state Constitution:

“We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God.”

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Green withdraws as Trump’s nominee for U.S. Army secretary

Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green has announced he is withdrawing President Donald Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of the Army, blaming the “distraction” caused by “false” attacks on his religious beliefs.

Green, a physician and former Army flight surgeon who lives in Clarksville, had declared himself a candidate for the Republican governor’s nomination in 2018, but put campaigning on hold after Trump nominated him to succeed Eric Fanning as Army secretary. Fanning, serving under President Barack Obama, was the first openly gay military service secretary.

From the Times-Free Press report:

“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said in a statement.

“While these false attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the President the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”

…He noted he and his wife, Camie, “look forward to finding other opportunities to use our gifts to serve others and help Make America Great Again.”

There was no specific comment as to whether he would restart his gubernatorial campaign.

From the Washington Post report:

Green pulled out after a month of calls for the Trump administration to choose someone else. Advocacy groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people immediately launched an effort on Capitol Hill to block his nomination after it was announced April 7, saying his history of antagonism toward them made him an unacceptable choice.

… Among the comments that drew concern were Green saying last fall that if psychiatrists were polled, they would say that “transgender is a disease.” He added that while most millennials accept transgender people, he wanted to be a “light” that set the record straight.

“If you really want to bring this back to who’s at fault, I mean we’ve got to look a little bit inwardly,” he said. “I mean, we’ve tolerated immorality and we’re not reflecting light.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also opposed Green’s nomination, citing an appearance before the Chattanooga Tea Party last fall in which Green said that “we will not tolerate” teaching the “pillars of Islam” in textbooks. At that same event, Green responded to a man who said he was concerned about an armed insurrection by people who “don’t belong here, like Muslims in the United States” by saying he’d asked a “great question.”

… Green’s withdrawal marks the latest chapter in the White House’s ongoing turmoil as it tries to fill senior civilian positions at the Pentagon. He was selected after President Trump’s first Army secretary nominee, Vincent Viola, withdrew from consideration in February. Viola, a former Army officer who went on to become a billionaire on Wall Street, cited the complications of getting through the Pentagon’s conflict-of-interest rules.

A nominee for Navy secretary, Philip M. Bilden, also withdrew from consideration in February, facing difficulties similar to Viola’s. No replacement has been named.

…Several U.S. senators this week signaled opposition to Green becoming Army secretary, including Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Schumer said in a statement that Green’s decision to withdraw is good news for all Americans, “especially those who were personally vilified by his disparaging comments toward the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Latino community and more.” The senator credited advocacy groups with prompting Green to withdraw and said that he hopes Trump will select someone who can represent everyone in the Army.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Congressional Republicans from Green’s home state focused on praising their fellow Tennessean for his service, rather than directly acknowledging any controversy related to his nomination.

“Mark Green has served his country with distinction,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn said in a statement. “He has served his state with honor. I respect his decision to withdraw his nomination and look forward to his continued service in our community.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander also said he respected the decision, but expressed some disappointment that Green didn’t get the nomination.

“This would have been an opportunity for the Army to benefit from his leadership skills, military experience and dedication to service members,” his statement said.

Sen. Bob Corker said he spoke with Green on Friday afternoon to thank him for his willingness to serve and for his commitment to public service.

“Although he has withdrawn from the process, I have no doubt that he will continue to find ways to serve our country and state,” Corker’s statement read.

Legislature gives final approval to ‘In God We Trust’ license plate

The House gave final legislative approval Thursday to issuing a Tennessee vehicle license plate bearing the phrase “In God We Trust.”

As originally introduced, SB1355 would have mandated the slogan on all license plates, which Attorney General Herbert Slatery opined could be unconstitutional. After an amendment, however, the enacted version just makes the phrase optional with each motorist.

The bill passed the House 85-0; The Senate approved earlier 29-1.

The state currently has a specialty license plate bearing the words “In God We Trust,” but that costs extra. Under the bill, the new “In God We Trust” plates will be available at the same cost as a regular plate.

Sponsors of the bill were Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta.

Sen. Green: I only labeled ‘murderous terrorists” evil (but urged doctor ‘cherry picking’ of patients?)

In apparently his first response to criticism from LGBT and Muslim groups on his nomination by President Trump as U.S. Army secretary, state Sen. Mark Green declares on Facebook that “the liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and ISIS blatantly falsifying what I’ve said. “

“The only people I have ever called evil are murderous terrorists trying to kill Americans,” he writes. “The only people I have ever suggested be crushed are the terrorist enemies of our nation.”

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‘Monkey trial’ controversy revisited over statute at Rhea County courthouse

June Griffin, veteran Christian conservative activist perhaps best known for leading a generally successful crusade to post the Ten Commandments on Tennessee courthouses, is now leading opposition to plans to erect a statute of Clarence Darrow at the Rhea County courthouse, reports the Times-Free Press.

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Muslim group opposes Green as Army secretary

News release from Council on American-Islamic Relations

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/12/17) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslims civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced its opposition to the confirmation of Mark E. Green as President Trump’s new Army secretary because of his past Islamophobic statements.

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House panel flip-flops on God & liberty resolution

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee, which in early March rejected a proposal to include a declaration  that God is the source of all liberty, has changed its mind in April.

The panel on Wednesday revived the measure by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, (HJR37) and approved it on voice vote. The move came after a motion to reconsider was filed by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, who voted against the measure on March 1 and for it on the second try.

If the proposal is ultimately approved – a long process that would take years – this language would be added to the Tennessee Constitution:

“We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from almighty God.”

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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