The 5 Worst Ideas From Tennessee’s Tea Party Legislature
This week, Tea Party groups in Tennessee have targeted Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) by holding “auditions” in five cities to find a formidable candidate to run against the state’s senior senator. The Tea Party groups turned against their Republican senator largely due to his support for the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration bill. Then, during a town hall meeting, a crowd of Tea Party supporters cheered when U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) told an 11-year old girl that nothing can be done for her father who is undergoing deportation because there are laws that need to be followed. These incidents have become typical in Volunteer State politics, which is full of right-wing politicians who hold some of the most radical views and propose some of the most outrageous laws of any state party in the country.
From the state whose Tea Party legislators tried to forbid the use of the word ‘gay’ in public schools, emailed constituents to report that President Obama was staging a fake assassination attempt to stop the 2012 election, and proposed fining individuals who don’t use the public restroom or dressing room that match the gender listed on their birth certificate, here are five more of the worst ideas to come from the Tennessee Legislature.
Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr.com
Linking Welfare Benefits to Children’s School Grades
State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-TN), who once pushed legislation that would require welfare recipients to be drug tested, introduced a bill in January that would tie welfare benefits to children’s classroom achievements.
If families don’t meet requirements, they face a 20 percent reduction in assistance. While the bill doesn’t explain how this would be assessed, Campfield defended the bill, stating, “We have done little to hold [parents] accountable for their child’s performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child’s performance.”
Campfield eventually dropped the bill after facing anger and criticism from parents.
Photo: CT.gov — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Removing The ‘Minority Experience’ From History Books
In a list of demands for the 2011 legislative session, Tea Party groups pushed to clear up the “lies” and misrepresentations currently told in Tennessee’s history books… by minimizing their focus on the “minority experience” in America.
Tea Party groups want to fight back against “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.” They continued, “The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to every—not all equally instantly—and it was their progress that we need to look at.”
Photo: Pesky Library via Flickr.com
Combating The War On Christmas
Making good use of time and taxpayer money, State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-TN) proposed legislation in August that would save the use of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” and “Happy Holidays.”
Campfield said, “This stops all these silly lawsuits that say you can’t say ‘merry Christmas’ or ‘happy Hanukkah’ or have a Christmas tree.”
Unlike Texas where similar legislation has been signed, Campfield’s bill was introduced in June and remains untouched since.
Photo: SeeMidTN.com via Flickr.com
Jailing Sharia Followers
As noted in the last slide, Tennessee Tea Party legislators are eager to defend their own religious freedoms, but not the freedoms of others—especially if said religion is Islam. With complete disregard for religious freedoms stipulated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which Tea Party groups hold near and dear, Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron (R) and State Representative Judd Matheny (R) introduced legislation that makes it illegal to adhere to Sharia law. If found guilty, one could face 15 years in jail. This bill was signed into law in June 2011.
Practices that fall under Sharia include prayers, feet washing, and traditions that teach moral values. Completely ignorant of what Sharia law is, Matheny defended the bill, saying, “This is providing the tools for our law enforcement here in Tennessee to protect not only the citizens, but those peaceful worshiping Muslims who do not interpret Sharia in an extremist manner as to call for jihad…I ask that they stand on our side.”
Photo: AslanMedia via Flickr.com
Dismissing Patient Privacy In Cases Of Abortion
Tea Party State Representative Matthew Hill (R-TN) proposed a bill entitled The Life Defense Act, which discloses the names of all doctors who perform abortions as well as demographic information about the women who receive them. Hill said of the bill that passed and went into effect in July 2012, “The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it. All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.” Doctors could see their names listed on the internet, and women in small communities risk being identified for having abortions.
Jeff Teague, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, told The Tennessean, “In an environment where doctors are victims of violence—and we’ve had physicians who provide abortion care murdered in the past few years—I think this is an attempt to intimidate and allow for providers to be terrorized.”
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