I Don’t Think Religious Freedom Means What You Think It Means

Do you want to know what’s funniest about the brand-new Tennessee Religious Freedom Caucus? Not the fact that we have one — after all, Tennessee is the state where people have actually filed lawsuits to stop construction of a mosque, and where a Nashville mosque has been vandalized not once but twice. So you can see how religious liberty is still an issue here.

Nope, it’s the people who are in the Religious Freedom Caucus.

From the state House we have Representatives Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta; Rick Womick, R-Rockvale; Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville; Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma; Mark White, R-Memphis; Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville; Harold Love, D-Nashville; John DeBerry, D-Memphis and Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City.

On the state Senate side we have Senators Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville; John Stevens, R-Huntingdon; Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey and Reginald Tate, D-Memphis.

Let’s look at a few of these folks, shall we:

• Rick Womick, of course, was last in the national news for wanting to bar Muslims from serving in the U.S. military, saying they should just “go back where they came from.”

• Judd Matheny was one of the geniuses behind Tennessee’s infamous anti-Sharia law bill two years ago.

• Jimmy Matlock last embarrassed himself by getting foamy-mouthed when the president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition dared wish him a “happy holiday,” not happy Christmas:

Apparently, Rep. Matlock doesn’t appreciate other groups usurping his Christmas, “…this is not a holiday season, it is a Christmas season. We celebrate Christmas, not the holidays. This is a Christian Nation!”

When Dr. Richmond explained that it was the first full day of Hanukkah, Matlock retorted, “This is a Christian Nation! We celebrate the Christmas season, not the holiday season. And I don’t want to hear anything about transvestites. That is against all that I believe.”

Sigh. And I didn’t even get into Bill Dunn’s whole “Monkey Bill” nonsense.

Seems some folks have confused “religious freedom” with “promote Christianity.” Shocked, I know.

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19 Comments

Filed under religion, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

19 responses to “I Don’t Think Religious Freedom Means What You Think It Means

  1. Mary Wilson

    LUV this one, SB. And this is how Campfield began his infamous reputation as a ‘conservative’ GOP rep…it was ALL about his ‘conservative religious values’, which made his actual life here in Knoxville SO hypocritical…’Slum Landlord’, forcing college students to live in his disgusting rental houses, exposed to raw sewage in their basements, no heat in winter, etc.

  2. This is dangerous. I am a Christian and unabashedly so. However, having government mandate against one religion is the opening of a Pandora’s box. Times will change and the precedent will allow future fascists to legislate against Christianity. With you 100% on this, Beale.

    • I’ve always said that the separation of church and state protects the church, as much as it protects the state. The right-wing’s hated secular European countries like Sweden and Norway all had, until really really recently, a state religion. I wrote about it here.

      • Min

        Yup. If people knew their history, they would know that an entanglement between government and religion never makes government more moral. It just makes the Church (or the equivalent) more corrupt.

      • While the concept of the separation of church and state could be bounced back at you in the manner “I do not think it means what you think that it means,” lets agree to defer to the Constitution:
        “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
        It is that “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” part that needs to be protected. If the government can ban one, they will later ban another.

  3. democommie

    First they came for the muslims…

    When these shit-for-brains KKKristianist asshats are done hatin’ on the mooslims and jews, they will eventually get to the Cath-O-Licks, Unitarians and other Non-MurKKKan faiths.

  4. That’s too bad they have that record, but, and sorry to put it this way, I haven’t lost faith in these religious freedom caucuses. The American Religious Freedom Program, who set these up, is a good organization with ecumenical roots. They had a conference last year that actually spoke out against anti-sharia sentiment and misunderstanding in America. With their guidance and the attention of the public, I think this caucus as a whole can do good things for people of all faiths, even if some of their past choices were poor.

    • The American Religious Freedom Program, who set these up, is a good organization with ecumenical roots.

      I am extremely dubious. According to their website, their executive director Brian Walsh is “a magna cum laude graduate of Regent University School of Law.” The school founded by Pat Robertson — which gave us such notable graduates as the infamous Monica Goodling. That sends up a red flag right there.

      Their two big state initiatives are fighting the Obamacare contraception mandate and getting pharmacist’s “conscious clauses” on the books. Their policy papers run exclusively in the right-wing National Review Online.

      Please. This is a far-right Fundiegelical Christian organization influencing our state government. Not just no but HELL no.

      They may say “freedom of religion for ALL faiths” in their slogan but any casual tour through their website shows they’re only interested in promoting far-right Christianity. Again: I don’t think religious freedom means what they think it means.

      • Just because an organization defends Christianity or their members are Christians doesn’t mean they only stick up for Christians. You’re only choosing to see a small piece of the picture. If you look on their front page the second news item down talks about a Muslim community being given the right to build a mosque in California. They wouldn’t promote that if they were far-right only endorsing Christianity. Also, I imagine it’s pretty difficult for a non-profit organization to work with even a left of center media outlet when the moment you say “christian” or “religious freedom” everyone thinks you’re bluffing.

      • Just because an organization defends Christianity or their members are Christians doesn’t mean they only stick up for Christians.

        I never said that it did. But if you’re going to equate the phony fight over the contraception mandate with “defending Christianity” then I’m afraid this conversation is over.

        I imagine it’s pretty difficult for a non-profit organization to work with even a left of center media outlet when the moment you say “christian” or “religious freedom” everyone thinks you’re bluffing.

        And yet, genuine ecumenical organizations like the National Conference of Christians and Jews, National Council of Churches and the Interfaith Alliance have managed just fine. Maybe if this group is having that problem that should tell you something.

        Either your bullshit meter is way off or you’re just a fundiegelical apologist yourself.

      • You’re right, they should probably work harder to work with more centrist media outlets.

        Yet, the fact remains, they will stick up for religious freedom for all, not just Christians. So your fundamental point is still wrong.

      • I just don’t see this overwhelming evidence of them “sticking up for religious freedom for all,” though. Putting a link to a news story on their website doesn’t cut it. Looks to me like they’re another one of those sham organizations created to foist a right-wing agenda on the rest of us.

        Their board of advisors reeks of right wing wackadoodle Dominionist BS. Charles Colson? Richard Land? Not a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or atheist in the bunch. In fact, just two Jews — both staunch conservatives and active Republicans, and only one Muslim.

        And what’s their connection to the Becket Fund? Becket is a right-wing Catholic legal group that gets money from the Kochs. The more I look into this group, the less I like them. You should have kept your mouth shut because now I’m convinced this is nothing more than a right wing front group with one of those names that says the exact opposite of what they’re really up to. You know, like the “Affordable Energy Alliance,” which is really a pro-oil group.

        You get this many far right wackos in one club and it really stinks up the joint.

  5. democommie

    “Yet, the fact remains, they will stick up for religious freedom for all, not just Christians. So your fundamental point is still wrong.”

    You have some examples of this? Please show us those examples.

  6. democommie

    Gosh, I thought Jeff would be back with those examples by now.

    • Somehow I thought having a Muslim on the board of directors would be your evidence. At the beginning of this convo that would have been unthinkable!

      Stepping out now. This conversation is way too politically charged and going nowhere. I’d like to approach this issue from a non-partisan view and not reject people solely because of their political affiliation. Thats exactly whats wrong with both sides of politics today, people not willing to set aside their differences and work together.

      • One Muslim makes up for a board stacked with fringe Dominionist wack jobs? That’s “ecumenical”? That’s “interfaith”? Give me a break.

        I think your Overton Window has opened and you are welcome to leave through it.

    • Well, maybe this group will jump on board the University of Missouri’s new inclusiveness of Wiccans and pagans. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

  7. democommie

    Well, I just googled, “American Religious Freedom Program” and checked out their board of directors. Chuck Fucking Colson and Richard Fucking Land. Yeah, they’re all about ecumenical inclusiveness.

    This:

    “The Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program is devoted to protecting and strengthening Americans’ God-given and constitutional religious freedoms. The program brings together individuals and organizations of all religious faiths, regardless of ideological or political affiliation.

    Americans are increasingly told that the creation of the First Amendment’s two Religious Clauses was animated by suspicion or even hostility towards any role for religion in public life. Strict separationists and many secularists claim that the purpose of these two constitutional provisions is solely to separate and cleanse public life from all religiously inspired symbols, speech, and practices.”

    is boilerplate dominionist horseshit.