Tag Archives: religion

Snake-handling preacher in ‘a fight for freedom of religion’

A snake-handling pastor from Campbell County pleaded not guilty Friday to possessing more than 50 venomous snakes, reports the News Sentinel.

Andrew Hamblin, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, entered the plea during an arraignment in Campbell County General Sessions Court, which was packed.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Dec. 17.

Hamblin, 22, who appears on the National Geographic reality television show “Snake Salvation,” is charged with possession of Class 1 wildlife, a species inherently dangerous to humans, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a $2,500 fine per count.

Hamblin could face up to 50 counts, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spokesman Matthew Cameron. The snakes were removed from his church earlier this month.

He also could face additional charges for illegal importation of snakes because he had some exotic species.

“This ain’t no longer a fight for snake handling,” Hamblin told reporters and dozens of onlookers before the hearing.

“They came to our church house and that just ain’t right. This is a fight for freedom of religion.

“And the Lord said they shall take up serpents and that is our God-given right in the United States.”

TWRA cites snake-handling preacher for illegally keeping reptiles, seizes 50 snakes

LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee preacher who has appeared on national television demonstrating use of snake handling has been cited with possession of venomous snakes.

Media report 50 venomous snakes were seized at Andrew Hamblin’s church, Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette (luh-FAH’-lut). The snakes were being taken to the Knoxville Zoo.

Hamblin, who has appeared on the National Geographic television show “Snake Salvation,” is scheduled in Campbell County General Sessions Court next week.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Matthew Cameron says TWRA authorities from Knox and Campbell counties asked Hamblin at his home Thursday if he had venomous snakes at his church and he took them there.

He is charged with the misdemeanor of possessing Class 1 wildlife, a species inherently dangerous to humans.

Gobble Appointment Inspires Ethical Questions

Cari Wade Gervin provides a detailed critique of former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble’s appointment of former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble by Gov. Bill Haslam to the state Board of Parole under the headline, “Haslam’s New Parole Board Appointee Doesn’t Believe in Separation of Church and State or, Apparently, Ethics.”
An excerpt:
In February, Gobble resigned from his position after a string of malfeasances, including abusing the city’s Facebook page; hiring a 19-year old friend from church he referred to as his “Jedi Knight” as the city’s communications director at $35,000 a year and then, when realizing that the appointment violated city code, deleting the code from the website in the hopes that no one would find out; threatening and suspending a court clerk over a case Gobble’s daughter was involved in; and even using his city credit card to pay for regular trips to Baskin Robbins as a “justifiable business expense.” (The last one we can at least understand — ice cream is pretty necessary to human existence.)
….And it’s true, Gobble does have lots of experience in law enforcement, which is conceivably a good quality for someone tasked with the ability to grant offenders parole. However, it turns out that Gobble wasn’t really good at those jobs either. He was reportedly fired from his position in the Secret Service and forced to resign from his position as director of the Bradley County Emergency Agency for violations of the Hatch Act — i.e., the law that prevents people using their offices to conduct campaign activities on the job. (Similar violations had previously forced him off the Cleveland City Council.)
Then, just before Gobble left his job as Bradley County Sheriff, the jail almost lost its certification with the Tennessee Corrections Institute for overcrowding, mold in the kitchen, and standing water in at least one cell. But all of that was ok with Gobble, we guess, because it seems his main concern with running a prison wasn’t maintaining it but rather bringing prisoners to Jesus. In a rather long essay, apparently penned while on the job and then posted to the actual official Bradley County Sheriff’s website, Gobble explains how “Our Christian Heritage” — that’s the essay’s title — is influencing how he runs his jail.

TN Legislature Apparently 100 Percent Christian (Baptists Most Common)

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 God We Trust’ Goes on County Courthouse

CLINTON, Tenn. (AP) — A move to place the motto “In God We Trust” on the Anderson County Courthouse has won final approval.
The Oak Ridger reported 14 of the 16 Anderson County Commission members voted Monday to place the national motto over the doors of the courthouse in Clinton. Two commissioners abstained.
Approval came at a third meeting at which the issue was discussed.
Commissioner Jerry Creasy tried to amend the motion to include well-known slogans be placed above three courthouse entrances and “In God We Trust” be placed about the fourth one, but it died for lack of a second.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported a local businessman and a group of ministers had advanced the idea.
Commissioners initially voted 12-4 in February to put up the slogan

Clergy Members Call for Medicaid Expansion, Oppose Welfare Cuts for Bad Grades

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Faith leaders from across Tennessee gathered at the Capitol on Monday to speak out for the poor, while the governor and lawmakers consider initiatives affecting health insurance and welfare benefits.
About 15 clergy delivered 133 baskets of loaves and paper fish to the offices of each legislator and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, urging them to accept $1.4 billion in Medicaid money if the federal government doesn’t approve an alternate plan for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.
The clergy said the loaves and fish symbolized the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, and that the money could provide thousands with health insurance.
“We’re here today … to send a message to Gov. Haslam that if the government does not accept his alternate plan for health care here in Tennessee, then we really want him to accept the Medicaid expansion dollars,” said Kathy Chambers, one of the organizers of Clergy for Justice, a grassroots advocacy group for equality.
“We want him to take the resources and be able to multiply it like in the miracle of the loaves and fish, and be able to help Tennesseans who need health insurance desperately.”
Haslam later told reporters that he understands the group’s concern for “the least of these,” but that he also must be financially responsible.

Continue reading

Senators Concerned Over Vouchers for Muslim Schools

Republican Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy are concerned about Muslim schools receiving taxpayer funding through the voucher legislation now pending in the General Assembly, reports the Murfreesboro Post.
“This is an issue we must address,” state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) said. “I don’t know whether we can simply amend the bill in such a way that will fix the issue at this point.”
State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Tracy each expressed their concerns Friday over Senate Bill 0196, commonly called the “School Voucher Bill” and sponsored by fellow Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), which would give parents of children attending failing public schools a voucher with which to enroll in a private school.
State monies that would otherwise be spent on educating the student in public schools would then be diverted to qualifying private schools to pay private tuition for the student, in whole or in part.
Islamic schools throughout the state, including Nashville and Memphis where several of Tennessee’s lowest performing schools are located, would qualify to receive such students under the state-funded voucher program.
One such Islamic school, the Nashville International Academy, states that its vision is “to create a positive learning environment where students are committed to the teachings of the Quran and example of Prophet Muhammad.”
The school is located on Charlotte Pike and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which qualifies it as a Category III private school through Tennessee statutes.
Other such schools include the Clara Muhammad School, a division of the Nation of Islam that operates a school in Nashville among its 74 other locations, and the Anoor Academy of Knoxville.

UT ‘Sex Week’ and ‘All Comers’ Bill Tied in House Floor Debate

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.”

Continue reading

Legislators to Vanderbilt: No ‘All-Comers’ Policy of No Police

Tennessee lawmakers on Tuesday revived an effort to pressure Vanderbilt University to drop its controversial nondiscrimination policy for student clubs, reports Chas Sisk — this time with an attack on the school’s police powers.
A pair of Middle Tennessee lawmakers said they will press ahead with a bill that would strip the Vanderbilt University Police Department of state recognition unless the school abandons its “all-comers” policy. That policy requires university-sponsored clubs to follow its rules against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
The bill would defy the wishes of Gov. Bill Haslam, who vetoed a measure last year that attacked the all-comers rule from a different angle. Backers said the new measure would stand a better chance of holding up in the courts and protect students from arbitrary use of police power to break up protests against the policy.
“Who will hold Nicholas Zeppos accountable?” said David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, referring to Vanderbilt’s chancellor.
But university officials said the measure flies in the face of efforts to tighten security in the wake of mass shootings. Without state recognition, Vanderbilt’s police effectively would become security guards, they said.
“I just find it unbelievable,” said August Washington, chief of the Vanderbilt University Police Department.
Senate Bill 1241/House Bill 1150, sponsored by state Rep. Mark Pody and state Sen. Mae Beavers, would take police powers away from any university that has adopted policies that “discriminate” against religious student organizations. Seventeen universities in Tennessee have their own police departments.
But it is geared toward Vanderbilt, which has implemented a rule requiring recognized student groups to follow school policies that bar discrimination.

Haslam: Muslim Aide ‘Incredibly Unfairly Maligned’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday issued his strongest defense yet of a Muslim aide who has been criticized for once working in the field of Shariah compliant finance.
The Republican governor was asked after a speech to a Nashville Republican group whether he was incorporating elements of Islamic law into state government. Such criticism emerged after the Haslam administration earlier this year hired Samar Ali to work in the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Haslam said Ali, an attorney who grew up in Waverly and was student body president at Vanderbilt, has done nothing to deserve criticism.
“Samar is someone quite frankly — and I know some people in this room disagree with me — who I think has been incredibly unfairly maligned,” Haslam said.
“She is somebody who was making a whole lot more money somewhere else, loved Tennessee, wanted to come back here and be a part of it,” he said.
Before her White House fellowship, Ali worked for Hogan Lovells US LLP, where she was a founding member of the firm’s Abu Dhabi office and specialized in international business issues and Shariah compliant transactions. Shariah law forbids the giving or receiving of interest and requires deals to be based on tangible assets. Earning money from companies involved with alcohol, tobacco, gambling and pornography is also off limits.
Tennessee has also been the scene of a two-year battle over a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro.
A group of neighbors sued to try to stop construction, claiming, among other things, that local Muslims were compelled by their religion to try to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and replace it with Islamic law.
It’s not the first time the Haslam administration has sought to dispel allegations that it was furthering Islamic interests, a claim posted on a billboard near the state Capitol.
Haslam deputy Claude Ramsey in August wrote a letter to GOP leaders denying that the state was involved in the promotion of any religion.
“I want to start by clearly expressing there is no effort by the Haslam administration, the State of Tennessee, or any agency or department of the State to promote or advance Shariah law or Shariah complaint finance,” Ramsey wrote in the letter.

Note: Samar Ali recently characterized the attacks as ‘silly’ but ‘hurtful.’ Post HERE.