VOL. 41 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 05, 2017
House votes to amend Constitution to state rights come from God
By Sam Stockard
The House of Representatives took the first legislative step Monday toward rewriting the state Constitution with a measure recognizing liberties come from Almighty God rather than governments.
In a 69-17 vote, the House passed the resolution by Rep. Micah Van Huss, an East Tennessee Republican, to amend the Constitution, a move requiring votes by consecutive General Assemblies and passage by the state’s voters.
“As a nation, we are drifting from what’s important, and I think it’s very important to give the citizens of Tennessee an opportunity to reaffirm that our liberties do not come from Donald Trump, our liberties do not come from Barack Obama or the king of England. They come from God,” Van Huss said as he introduced the resolution.
Van Huss quoted President John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King, President Ronald Reagan and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson to back up his position.
“I want to give Tennesseans the opportunity to voice their opinions at the polls,” he said.
Rep. Darren Jernigan, an Old Hickory Democrat, was one of only two other House members to speak about the resolution and asked Van Huss what he considers to be liberties coming from Almighty God.
Van Huss responded that some liberties come from God and some come from America. If the resolution were to pass, he said, “It would be more of the way I want things to be instead of the way things have been.”
Jernigan then asked, “If those liberties that you believe in are violated, where do you go for redress?”
Van Huss said he would go the government for redress if it takes away the liberties God has given, and he noted, “For me, abortion would be one liberty we have in America that I do not think is a God-given liberty. You would go to government to hopefully fix it. That’s one of the reasons I brought the resolution.”
Van Huss sponsored legislation this session to prohibit abortion when a heartbeat is detected in a fetus. He deferred it in the Health Subcommittee until the first calendar of 2018.
Jernigan pointed, however, “You’d go to government, but you don’t recognize the government as giving you the liberty. Do you not see the irony where you want to put the phrase in the very government document that you say does not give us liberties?”
Van Huss, though, said the Tennessee Constitution does give liberties and stated again his belief that some liberties come from God and some come from the United States of America.
Jernigan contended the phrase should be placed in a proclamation or a declaration as Jefferson did when he wrote that people’s “rights are endowed by our Creator.” He pointed out God is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and when God is mentioned in the Tennessee Constitution it is in regard to religious freedom.
“One of the reasons we left England was that government became the executive branch of the church, which opens that small door to theocracy, which, frankly, frightened Jefferson, as well,” Jernigan said. “I wouldn’t be opposed to putting it anywhere else but the Constitution.”
He then asked Van Huss what happens to people who don’t believe in God.
Van Huss responded, “Folks that don’t believe in God, they can vote no on this.”
The only other legislator to speak about the matter, Rep. Ron Travis, a Dayton Republican, pointed out it would be difficult for legislators to vote against the resolution and said he didn’t understand why Van Huss wanted to put it in Constitution.
Travis read his own passage, one from the Bible, “Render unto Caesar what is Caeser’s and the things that are God’s unto God.”
Sam Stockard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.