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.
In a House floor speech Monday night, Rep. Bill Dunn said plans for “Sex Week” at the University of Tennessee provide an example of campus organizations promoting behavior offensive to Christian students and why legislators need to protect them.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, meanwhile, said he expects UT officials to be called before the Senate Education Committee to explain the event, scheduled on the Knoxville campus April 7-12.
Campfield wrote members of the committee suggesting the panel reconsider its approval of UT’s budget for the coming year because of the event. He said Monday that the committee’s chairman, Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, told him reconsideration of budget approval would be difficult, but that UT officials would be summoned to explain Sex Week.
Dunn and Campfield, both Knoxville Republicans, cited a Fox News report on Sex Week, arranged by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness in Tennessee (SEAT).
Dunn told House colleagues that participants will engage in a scavenger hunt for a golden condom and that workshop topics include “getting laid,” “sex positivity,” “queer as a bug” and “how to turn up the heat on our sex drive.”
From the Kingsport Times-News: A Kingsport woman is accused of stealing nearly $50,000 from a Bristol-based non-profit, which funds a Bluff City Christian radio station and is directed by Kenneth C. Hill — the Tennessee Regulatory Authority director and father of local representatives Timothy and Matthew Hill.
An affidavit filed in Bristol General Sessions Court states Quyen Renee Quillin, 37, of 613 West Valley View Circle, Kingsport, was arrested Jan. 22 by Bristol, Tenn., Police. She was charged with theft of more than $10,000, booked into the Sullivan County jail and released after posting $3,000 bond.
“It’s a difficult thing, and it’s a very difficult and very sad thing for her,” Hill told the Times-News of the arrest, adding an investigation is continuing. BTPD Det. Brian Hess says Quillin had been an employee of Hill’s non-profit approximately four years, with AECC continuing to follow paper trails and suspecting the total theft could be close to $300,000.
Court records state Quillin was an employee of Hill’s Appalachian Education Commission Corporation, which broadcasts WHCB 91.5 Christian radio out of Bluff City, Tenn. Hill reportedly contacted investigators on Jan. 14, two months after attempting to obtain a loan for the ministry and being denied.
He reported that a subsequent check of records discovered Quillin, a bookkeeper and administrative assistance with his non-profit, had opened a joint American Express card on his account without permission. Hill told police Quillin had charged approximately $47,000 on the card and then paid it off with money from the Appalachian Education Commission Corporation, which is funded through donations from the public.
Family Action of Tennessee, a conservative Christian organization, today declared 16 state senators and 37 state representatives — all of them Republicans — as “Champions of the Family.” That means they had a record of voting the way the organization wanted 100 percent of the time.
The most notable absence from the list, perhaps, is House Speaker Beth Harwell. A check of her voting record by FAT standards shows her with a 92 percent rating; she was absent when one of the votes in question was taken.
The group’s voting record report on all legislators is HERE. The list of ‘champions’ with 100 percent records is HERE. Here’s the news release:
David Fowler, President of Family Action of Tennessee, Inc., today announced the names of those state legislators designated by the organization as Champions of the Family. Champions of the Family are those state legislators who had a 100% voting record on various pieces of state legislation followed by Family Action during the 2011-2012 General Assembly.
“Those legislators who have received our highest designation as a Champion of the Family are those whose votes have shown that they understand the critical importance of marriage, family, life, and religious liberty to the future well-being of our state. We heartily applaud their unwavering stand on behalf of the families of Tennessee,” said Mr. Fowler.
In the beginning was the Moral Majority. Then came the Christian Coalition. Now there’s a new incarnation of politically active conservative Christians — the Tea Party Evangelicals. Or, as David Brody nicknamed them, the Teavangelicals.
Further from The Tennessean’s story:
“The Moral Majority of the 1970s and early 1980s has morphed into a fiscally disciplined, tea party conservative, evangelical movement,” said Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network and author of the new book “The Teavangelicals.”
These politically active believers helped Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in the Tennessee primary and have fueled the campaigns of former presidential candidates such as Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann along with local candidates such as Lou Ann Zelenik.
They hope to reshape politics in Tennessee and around the country. It’s a group that opposes President Obama but also is suspicious of incumbents of any party.
“You go to Washington, drink the Potomac water, and you don’t do anything for the people,” Brody said. “They are fed up with everyone.”
J. Lee Douglas, organizer of the 912 Project Tennessee, considers himself an evangelical Christian and a tea party activist.
He’d not heard of the Teavangelical label before but said that it fits. His faith shapes many of his political views.
The Tennessee 912 Project, which has about 2,000 members, was inspired by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.
Douglas said he and other group members believe there are absolutes when it comes to right and wrong, both in religion and in politics.
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Nearly half of those voting in Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday said the economy was their top concern, with another third citing the deficit and more than nine in 10 saying gas prices were a factor in how they voted.
David Morgan, a 55-year-old salesman voting in Nashville listed his top concerns as “the economy and jobs and now the gas prices.”
“The whole economy is down,” he said. “Myself, I don’t make as much as I used to.”
Morgan said he voted for Mitt Romney because “I feel like he is the one that can beat Obama.”
About a third of Republican voters said the candidate quality that mattered most to them was beating President Barack Obama, according to preliminary results from an exit poll conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press. Smaller percentages were most concerned about their candidate’s moral character, experience or conservative credentials.
About seven in 10 Tennessee voters identified themselves as born-again Christians, more than in any state voting previously. About three-quarters said it mattered at least somewhat that a candidate shared their religious beliefs.
Mary Cecil, a retiree voting in Sevierville, said she voted for Rick Santorum on Tuesday. Although the economy was a concern, she said the deciding factor was: “I would like to have a true Christian in the White House.”
About nine in 10 voters said they had a negative view of the way the federal government is working, with about four in 10 saying they were “angry” about it. Almost two-thirds backed the tea party movement.
Results from the Tennessee exit poll are based on interviews with 1,769 Republican primary voters, including 640 absentee or early voters who were interviewed by phone before election day. Election day voters come from a random sample of 30 polling places. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Statement from Administrative Office of the Courts:
As of this morning, the Administrative Office of the Courts has received more than 16,000 email petitions requesting the Supreme Court to stop the retrials of the four defendants charged with the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom of Knoxville, Tenn.,” said Laura Click, public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
“We certainly appreciate and understand the public’s interest in these cases, however, the Code of Judicial Conduct prevents the Supreme Court, or any judge, from considering ex parte communications as part of its decision making process. In other words, a judge cannot consider any communications made to the judge without the parties in the case being present.
“The Code of Judicial Conduct also prohibits judges from commenting on any cases that may come before them. Should the state file an appeal from the trial judge’s decision granting the motions for retrials, the appellate courts will consider the appeal based on the facts and information filed with the court as part of the regular appeals process, described in the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure,” Click said.
An online petition created five days ago and signed by more than 13,000 people asks Gov. Bill Haslam to overturn Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s decision to throw out the convictions of four people in the 2007 killings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, reports the News Sentinel. While Channon Christian’s mother Deena Christian didn’t start the petition, she appreciates the support.
“My cousin is the one who started the petition,” she said of Brandon Sterne of Concrete, Wash. “I didn’t ask him to do that. We appreciate all the support we can get. Neither the Christian nor the Newsom families wants to do this over again.”
Dave Smith, spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said Tuesday legal counsel to the governor has opined that Haslam doesn’t have legal authority to overturn Blackwood’s decision.
“The governor has previously said it is a horrific thing having to replay all that,” Smith said.
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann stuck to her campaign talking points as she arrived Friday for a Christian rally held at the Old Natchez Country Club about five miles north of Franklin.
A further excerpt from The Tennessean: The event preceded a $1,000-per-person fundraiser held later at a private home.
The Minnesota congresswoman took a few moments to talk to the media before entering the event, which was open to donors for $125 but closed to reporters.
“I’m thrilled and delighted to be here,” Bachmann said.
…Organizer Ronda Holmberg said the Apologetics Group, a Christian organization that planned the rally at the club, said Bachmann was here to meet with spiritual leaders and “share her heart.”
A news release regarding the event said organizers excluded the media so that the congresswoman could speak freely about her faith without concern that she would be “misunderstood, ‘sound-byted’ out of context and then fed into the ‘meat the press’ maelstrom that is the modern 24-hour-day news cycle.”
A Texas-based nonprofit group wants to build a 600-be prison in Maury County that would be staffed only by Christians and take a faithbased approach to rehabilitating inmates, reports The Columbia Daily Herald. The Christian prison would be managed by a group called Corrections Concepts.
(Note: An early version of this post mistakenly referred to CCA, which is not involved.)
Some excerpts from the story: Jerry Hodges, president of Columbia-based SRM Construction Inc. and a longtime supporter of the project, said he believes the prison would help convicts rebuild their lives while providing an economic benefit to the community.
“It is a very, very Godly inspired — from my perspective — approach to corrections,” said Hodges, who would serve as the project’s construction manager. “I think God will look lightly on Maury County for being kind and gracious enough to want this in their community.”
The project is being proposed by Corrections Concepts Inc., a nonprofit prison ministry based in Dallas. The organization was founded by Bill Robinson, who spent time in federal prison for writing bad checks during the 1960s before becoming a born-again Christian.
Supporters say the project will help the local economy by providing 153 jobs that would pay an average salary of $30,225. In addition, they estimate the county would receive about $550,000 in annual payments from the prison.
The facility is also estimated to bring more than 200 construction jobs and as many as 375 support jobs.
But some county officials have already expressed concerns about allowing a prison to be built in Maury County. Commissioner June Beckum said she is worried about how the facility would affect property values.
…Corrections Concepts’ proposal calls for accepting convicts from across the United States with 12-30 months left before their earliest release date. Inmates would have to volunteer to serve time in the facility and sign an agreement to be admitted.
… Corrections Concepts does not presently operate a prison, but it has signed an agreement with leaders in Wakita, Okla., a small town near the Oklahoma and Kansas state line, to build a similar facility.
The organization’s vision calls for eventually building four prisons. The facilities would house men, women, juveniles and the elderly. The group has tried to build prisons in more than a dozen locations but has been unsuccessful.
… Robinson said the county would own the prison and engage in intergovernmental agreements with states for inmates. The prison itself would be operated and managed by Corrections Concepts.
The $42 million project would be financed with bonds. Robinson said he needs a commitment of 287 inmates at a rate of $42.80 a day per prisoner for bond sales to begin.
…State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, penned letters in support of the project.
Butt wrote in her letter that the “project is not only economically and socially feasible, but could have a great impact on individual lives, families and communities.”