religion & politics

Kustoff invited to White House Hanukkah Party; Cohen (and other Jewish Democrats) snubbed

President Donald Trump invited the two Republicans members of Congress who are Jewish – Tennessee’s Rep.  David Kustoff and New York Rep. Lee Zeldin – to the White House Hanukkah Party but excluded Jewish Democrats including Tennessee’s Rep. Steve Cohen, reports the New York Times. That was break with tradition, which under past presidents has made the gathering non-partisan.

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State to pay $80K to settle lawsuit over religious teaching in prison inmate program

TRICOR, the state program providing jobs for prison inmates, will pay $80,994 to settle a federal court lawsuit that contended inappropriate religious teaching was included in instructional materials, reports WKRN TV.

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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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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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