The Tennessee Journal, a subscription political newsletter, has sorted through state legislators’ listings of religious preference and found, perhaps not surprisingly, that they are almost 100 percent Christian. The possible exceptions are a couple of lawmakers who do not list their religion in biographical information.
The Senate breakdown: Two Catholics and 31 Protestants. Leading in the Protestant breakdown: seven Baptists, five Methodists, four Presbyterians, and four members of the Church of Christ.
The House breakdown: Three Catholics and almost all the rest Protestant, though a couple simply say “Christian” or do not give a religious preference. Leading the religious House lineup: 45 Baptists, 11 Methodists, seven Presbyterians, six Church of Christ members and three Episcopalians.
In both chambers there are a few congregations with one member each such as Lutheran, a Nazarene and Pentecostal.
The last Jew to serve in the Legislature was former Sen. Andy Berke, who is now mayor of Chattanooga.
From the Tennessee Historical Commission:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Historical Commission announced three Tennessee sites have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It is part of a nationwide program that coordinates and supports efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic resources. The Tennessee Historical Commission administers the program in Tennessee.
“The National Register honors places that help Tennesseans understand our heritage and what makes our communities unique and enjoyable,” said Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission. “We are confident this recognition will help retain these unique sites for future generations to know and appreciate.”
Sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places include:
Rick Santorum became the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the Memphis area in recent weeks with a Sunday morning appearance at Bellevue Baptist Church, reports the Commercial Appeal. Santorum, a Catholic and a former Pennsylvania senator, arrived with his wife, Karen, and three of their children, and was seated in the front row of the Memphis mega-church, which is one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the South. He seemed to enjoy an early hymn, nodding his head and swaying, then embracing his wife.
Bellevue pastor Steve Gaines brought Santorum and his wife onto the stage for a prayer. With the couple’s image featured on several of the arena-like sanctuary’s jumbo TV screens, Gaines quoted from I Timothy, verse two, and mentioned abortion and immorality.
“Our church is very concerned about our nation and we just believe we should turn back to God,” Gaines said in his prayer.
At one point, two parishioners placed their hands on Santorum’s shoulders, and most of the congregation raised their hands in a symbolic laying on of hands for the former Pennsylvania senator.
The appearance at one of the South’s largest Southern Baptist churches comes on the same weekend The New York Times examined Santorum’s devotion to the kind of “highly traditional Catholicism” that has historically caused tension between Baptists and Catholics.
According to The Times: “Unlike Catholics who believe that church doctrine should adapt to changing times and needs, the Santorums believe in a highly traditional Catholicism that adheres fully to what scholars call ‘the teaching authority’ of the pope and his bishops.”
The visit also comes as Santorum is working to lock down his advantage in the South over national Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, whose own Mormon faith has been a factor in his struggle to build a stronger following among religious conservatives, particularly those in the South.
By Travis Lollar
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention approved a new resolution at its meeting in Arizona this week advocating a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, in a move that policy leader Richard Land described as “a really classic illustration of gospel love and gospel witness.”
The resolution passed Wednesday also calls on Southern Baptists to minister to all people and to reject bigotry and harassment toward all people, regardless of their country of origin or immigration status.
“I think Southern Baptists understand it’s just not politically viable to send an estimated 12 to 15 million undocumented immigrants back where they came from,” said the Rev. Paul Jimenez, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., and chairman of the SBC’s resolutions committee. “It’s not humane either.”
A motion to strike the reference to a path to legal status was narrowly defeated by a vote of 766 to 723, according to the SBC’s Baptist Press.
A Franklin County lawmaker says his bill that increases disorderly conduct penalties for people protesting outside funerals and memorial services is intended to target “hateful” groups like Westboro Baptist Church, which demonstrated this week outside a solider’s funeral in Nashville, reports the Chattanooga TFP.. “Groups like Westboro are hateful, ugly and misrepresent the Christian faith,” Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belivire, said in a news release.
“They disrespect our military families and target our citizens and residents. We must do everything we can to ensure they have no incentive to come here.” Senate Bill 1380, which was recently signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, goes into effect July 1.
It increases penalties for disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral or memorial service from a Class C to a Class B mismeanor. Instead of facing up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine, persons convicted under the change will be looking at a sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a maximum of $500 fine.
Topkea, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church has achieved national notoriety for its picketing of funerals for slain military service members. The group says on its website that “God Hates America” and is “killing our troops in his wrath.”
Actually, the Westboro protest in Nashville was pretty much a complete flop with an estimated 2,000 people protesting the Westboro protesters appearance at the funeral of a Tennessee soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Excerpt from The Tennessean’s account: On May 12, Nashville native and Marine Sgt. Kevin Balduf, 27, was killed in combat in Afghanistan. Much closer to his home, Christian fundamentalists in Topeka, Kansas, planned their trip to protest his funeral.
News of Westboro Baptist Church’s plans lit up social media sites, resulting in a counter-protest of about 2,000 people Monday outside Woodmont Hills Family of God church on Franklin Pike. In less than 10 minutes, two hours before the funeral’s start, the three Westboro protesters took their leave.
Earlier Monday, the three protested outside Gordon Jewish Community Center in Bellevue and the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South. During their short protest of the Islamic center, someone slashed the tires on their rented SUV. Metro Police took a report, but no one has been charged.
Since a March Supreme Court ruling in favor of Westboro Baptist, counter-protesters have stepped up their efforts to shout the group down at soldiers’ funerals. America must allow “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion for the court.
Columnist Gail Kerr, meanwhile, opines today that the counter-protest — and a lawsuit filed against the bill passed by the Legislature to override a Nashville city ordinance forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation – are examples of Nashvillians’ willingness to stand up against bigotry.