To the editor,
As a concerned constituent who has lived in Tennessee for 15 years, my heart has been heavy as I have watched the cruelty of this legislative year. So, I am writing to implore Gov. Bill Lee to not sign the dangerous laws passed by the Tennessee House and Senate.
I know that Lee claims Jesus as his savior and that God guides his policy making, but I cannot see proof of this in his agenda. I have been a Christian since I was a child and have always been involved in church, so I am very familiar with Jesus’ message. I cannot seem to find it at the state Capitol. I am becoming convinced that Lee is more dedicated to power than to the Gospel that calls us to lay down our power for the sake of the least of these.
I want to start with the positive and thank Lee for prioritizing hepatitis C vaccinations in the prison population and for making room in the budget so that Tennessee can be the last state in the country to implement the Katie Beckett waiver. But there are several bills he has either signed or said that he will sign that have caused me to weep.
I grieve the push to Medicare block grants, knowing that tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens will lose some of their medical benefits (not to mention the lawless way Speaker of the House Glen Casada locked Democrats in the chamber to get what he wanted). This is not the Jesus way.
Pushing the agenda of school vouchers and making it easier to buy a gun puts the wishes of lobbyists over the safety and education of the most vulnerable among us, our children. The rates of gun deaths in Tennessee are among the worst in the country, but instead of passing legislation to make us safer, Lee has indicated that he will sign a bill (HB 1264/SB 705) that makes it easier to get a gun permit, with just $65 and a 90-minute training video. These people will then be able to legally conceal their guns in office buildings, parks and bars, with no actual practice with their weapon.
I understand the leadership is trying to spin the criminalization of voter registration efforts, but there is no way to honestly justify this as anything except wanting to restrict the registration and voting of people of color after the large voter registration efforts of their communities in 2018. If Lee’s administration truly wanted more people to vote, he would have instead passed automatic voter registration like other states are doing.
And the refusal to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier from the Capitol shows that Lee is more committed to the presence of a symbol of discrimination and slavery than to honor the people who are made in God’s image. And he never spoke out against Casada’s chief of staff for sending racist texts and trying to frame a civil rights activist. This suggests that he either doesn’t care or approves of his behavior.
I urge Lee to please pray and reconsider these bills. These policies are harmful to the people of Tennessee, and I pray he will have the change of heart needed to protect everyone, come to the right side of history and follow the calling of Jesus.