Wed
Feb 8 2006
01:11 pm
*Note: Originally posted at Thoughts of an Average Woman

Yesterday, Michael reported that the God Resolution is being resurrected here in Knox County, Tennessee.  There is a history to the God Resolutions, which started in October 2003 with Greene County Mayor, Roger D. Jones.  At the time, God Resolutions were passed by counties in Tennessee overwhelmingly, and it spread across the country.  Knox County commissioners, however, did not pass the erroneously worded resolution, but instead voted 10-9 to have the resolution removed from the agenda. 

The original resolution before Knox County Commissioners in late 2003, stated:

"Whereas, our government was founded upon a trust in God, that began when our Founding Fathers proclaimed in America's first official document, our Declaration of Independence, that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were not given to us by government, but by God 'our Creator,' the 'Sovereign Judge of the Universe;' and

Whereas, it is fact that between 90 and 95% of those who drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution had a strong belief and trust in God and never ever intended that there be a separation between HIM and the affairs of government, only that each citizen be free to choose on a personal basis how to worship, or if to worship; and

Whereas, the recognition of God by our government was further established when Congress, in 1954, added the phrase "One Nation Under God" to our Pledge of Allegiance, followed in 1956 by the official establishment of "In God We Trust" as our National Motto; and

Whereas, there is now a growing demand by some within the judicial system to remove all visible recognitions of God from public institutions, which has recently resulted in a federal order to physically remove the Ten Commandments Monument from the Alabama State Supreme Court, rightfully placed there by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to remind all that God is central to our National Heritage, and His Ten Commandments, without question, the foundation of American law, moral values, and code of conduct.

Now, therefore be it resolved by the commission of Knox County as follows:
That the Knox County Commission hereby urges all American citizens to proclaim to every level of government (local, state and federal) its responsibility to publicly recognize God as the foundation of our national heritage, lest our nation forget and our children never know!

Be it further resolved, that this resolution is to take effect from and after its passage, as proved by the charter of Knox County, Tennessee, the public welfare requiring it.

At the time the resolution surfaced in 2003, not yet being a blogger, I railed against the misinformation contained in the resolution, as well as the obvious melding of church and state this resolution promoted at the county level, in letters to each of the County Commissioners as well as sending the same to the Knoxville News Sentinel and Metro Pulse.  In fact, a portion of that rebuttal response to the resolution was published in the Metro Pulse (I do not have a link anymore).  My original rebuttal was quite lengthy and included quotes from the writings by our Founding Fathers that were in direct conflict of the resolutions statements. 

The same commissioner, Ivan Harmon, tried to bring back the resolution in February 2004.  Due to some health issues at the time, I did not follow it as closely as I had in previous months, so I don't have any newspaper accounting's in my saved file (hard copies), however, still not being a blogger at the time, I did write my objections to the Commissioners and the two above mentioned papers.   

Michael ended his piece in the KNS (1/18/2004 -- I printed it out for my God Resolution file at the time), with the following (perhaps Michael can provide links to this old piece of his?):

When the issue came up last fall, several local religious leaders questioned whether the resolution mixed state and religion.

Harmon said he's heard some churches in response to that will be circulating a petition urging passage of the new resolution.

I believe that both my responses to the Knox County Commissioners still holds true.  In consideration of time, I will reprint my second letter to the Commissioners here (links to documents are added).

Ivan Harmon is reintroducing the God Resolution at the February County Commission meeting.  Mr. Harmon is under the impression that by removing the phrase, "rightfully," in regards to Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument and Judge Moore's complete disregard of the Constitution, and, more importantly, Federal court orders, will sway previous non-supporters to pass this resolution.  Do the residents of Knox County really want to support a state Supreme Court Justice who blatantly disregards federal court orders?

I urge all supporters and opponents of the God Resolution to read the Ten Commandments and decide for themselves exactly how many of the Commandments are actually represented in American law.  Furthermore, lets go back in time and review the debate in the Continental Convention over what is termed a separation between church and state.  Many of those in favor of separation were devout religious leaders.  Why were religious leaders and many of our Founding Fathers in favor of this separation?  Simply, they had studied and saw first hand the dangers a church-state partnership produced, through oppression and tyranny, in Europe and our own colonies.

Consider this.  A pastor of the Church of Salem is found guilty and banished from Massachusetts in 1635.  His crime is that he preaches tolerance of other viewpoints and specifically religion in colonial Massachusetts (Roger Williams goes on to found Rhode Island).  Some of the other punishments in colonial times for not adhering to the dominant religion of the area were taxation, forced to attend government sponsored churches, banishment, torture and death.  Do the Commissioners desire a return to this religious oppression?  By passing the God Resolution Knox County will be taking the first steps backwards to religious oppression suffered in this country.

The Supreme Court declared in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."  This statement affirms James Madison's statement in his Memorial and Remonstrances that "the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."

There is nothing in our Constitution that refers specifically to Christianity, Jesus Christ or God.  Our Constitution is a document that respects religious pluralism.  Because of our Founding Fathers foresight in respecting religious pluralism, many religious sects have flourished and grown in this country, including Christianity.  The beauty of the First Amendment is that it allows each and every individual to opine their beliefs, whether historically accurate or not.  What our Constitution does not allow is a government agency or official to dictate to the American people that they should profess historical inaccuracies or a belief they may not share.

So, now that we're up to date on some of the history of Knox County and the God Resolutions, again, I have this overwhelming need to address Ivan Harmon in particular.   Once again, he has managed to convolute the religious history of our nation.  Make no mistake, prior to the American Revolution, religious tyranny and oppression was entrenched in the colonies.  The very same people escaping religious tyranny and oppression imposed the same if not harsher religious tyranny and oppression on those in their communities that did not believe in their form of religion.

What I was never able to find out, when this all started, was if there was a particular group or a particular person that urged or encouraged Greene County Mayor, Roger D. Jones to pursue the passage of God Resolutions in the first place.  And, in continuation, why Ivan Harmon has continued to pursue the desire for Knox Countians to revert to pre-Revolutionary times.

At the very least, the God Resolutions takes a page from pre-Revolutionary times, returning us to a time where religious oppression can be enforced.  Also at the very least, the God Resolutions are a slap in the face to the First Amendment, and all those that have flourished under the rights the First Amendment provides.  Shame on you, Mr. Harmon, and all Knox County Commissioners that support this historically oppressive resolution, for ignoring this nations religious history.  Shame on you all for continuing to ignore the religious pluralism that has flourished in this country and this county, and trying to oppress the same.

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