Some Republicans balk at resolution honoring La Raza chair

A resolution honoring Renata Soto, the founder of the Casa Azafrán Community Center in Nashville and chair of the National Council of La Raza, continues to stir considerable controversy and commentary at the legislature.

Sponsored by Nashville Democrats, HJR506 was first bumped from the consent calendar in the House at the request of House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada. When it came up for a separate vote later, it passed 66-10 with four abstentions.

In the Senate, the measure was bumped from the Senate consent calendar Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, acting at the request of Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville. It’s now scheduled for a separate vote on Monday.

From a lengthy Tennessean report:

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said the Senate routinely honors recipients ranging from Tennesseans who appear on national reality television shows to county fair winners.

“The notion that we wouldn’t recognize this vital leader is perplexing,” he said. “It unquestionably sends the wrong message about the kind of people we are here in Tennessee. Tennesseans are a friendly, hospitable and welcoming people.”

…”I did a little research,” (Bell) said. “I do have some questions about some of the things they’re involved in (referring to La Raza). Especially supporting and promoting illegal immigration, benefits for illegal immigrants and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.”

Bell said a number of other Republicans were also hesitant to adopt the resolution on Wednesday. He reiterated that the main issue was with La Raza and not Soto.

…Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he was apprehensive about supporting the resolution because La Raza is a “gang.”

“I don’t know much about them, really,” he said.

Niceley accused the organization of not being inclusive, based on his interpretation of a phrase he called the organization’s motto… “Here’s the deal: When we had the Mexican War, we whipped all of Mexico. We could’ve taken it all by international standards of the day — if you whip somebody they’re yours. But we didn’t. We just took a little at the top and gave the rest back to them. They should’ve been happy that we gave the rest back to them. But they forget that part. They’re mad because we kept California and Arizona and New Mexico.”

He added, “I knew that La Raza was a gang out west. That’s about all I knew.”

The Nashville Scene’s blog observes that the Senate adopted at the same time it was balking at Soto a resolution honoring Pastor Maury Davis and his wife Gail for 25 years of service at the giant Cornerstone Church in Madison.

You know Pastor Maury. A wildly anti-Islamic nutjob, he’s also the guy who killed and nearly beheaded a Sunday school teacher in 1975 and got out of prison after just 8 1/2 years to tell his fabulous story of redemption.

“Whereas, it is appropriate that the members of the General Assembly should honor those who have answered a divine call to the ministry and have served with dedication, vigor, and enthusiasm to perform God’s work for their congregations and their communities,” the resolution begins.

…The Republican supermajority apparently sees the resolution as showing approval of immigrants and brown-skinned people, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Before today’s session at a Senate Republican caucus—which is kind of like a Lion’s Club meeting in Bumpkinville, Tenn.—Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, made a joke about it.

“Soto,” Crowe said. “Is that a Star Wars character?”

Much knee-slapping ensued.