State Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, talks with the Johnson City Press about sponsoring HJR71, which proposes to amend the Tennessee constitution to add this sentence:
“We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.”
”I’m praying about it,“ Van Huss said.
…The reason Van Huss says he sees this as a positive course for action has everything to do with trends he sees across the country.
“As a nation, we are drifting from the morals of our founding, and I think it’s important to reaffirm that our liberties do not come from the King of England,” Van Huss said. “They do not come from Barack Obama. They come from God.”
The Tennessee Republican also showed appreciation across the aisle and finds himself in agreement with the words used by President John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address, when he said “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
On his website, Van Huss says he’s a ”born-again Bible-believing Christian,“ and that he graduated from Pensacola Christian College in 2003, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
…Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said politicians should stay out of religious decisions for Tennesseans.
“Aside from the historical fact that our civil liberties are grounded in the Bill of Rights, Tennesseans hold a wide range of religious beliefs,” Weinberg said. “Yet this resolution privileges one religion over another, marginalizing the thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion at all.
”Religious freedom thrives when religious matters are left in the hands of families and faith communities, not politicians. The Tennessee General Assembly has crucial economic, education and health care issues to deal with. Legislators should not be spending time promoting government overreach into the very personal realm of religion,“ she said.
…“If you put this together, it looks like a violation of the Establishment Clause,” said Stewart Harris, creator and host of the radio show “Your Weekly Constitutional” and a professor of law at the Appalachian School of Law.
The Establishment Clause is the first of several proclamations in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in which it’s said that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Because HJR71 would be an amendment to the Constitution of Tennessee, not the nation, it may be consitutional on a state level but might not hold up federally.
Harris said he believes the case could be made that Van Huss’ HJR71 could be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Van Huss admits he’s no legal expert, but he said he believes HJR71 would not be unconstitutional because it would give Tennesseans a choice brought forth through the democratic process.
“Again, we the people are a representative democracy and we vote on all kinds of things people don’t agree with,” Van Huss said. “That’s why this is a vote of the people of Tennessee who’ve been given an opportunity to make that statement.”