Lee and Tennessee legislative Republicans are feeling the blowback of recently passed bills that could tie the hands of public schools and businesses as they try to keep COVID-19 at bay.
“These four bills have content that is harmful to Tennessean,” said Rev. Gordon Myers, a retired pastor and co-chairman of the Tri-cities Poor People’s Campaign.
And as the clock is running out for action from Lee, pastors are giving a last-minute plea.
“The Bible is clear that those who claim Christian faith must lead by choosing wisdom over personal or party politics — Governor Lee you have a choice to make between competing interests,” Myers said.
The outcry from some Tennessee pastors comes as several major businesses and organizations chided the bill.
“Allowing this legislation to move in to law and practice will undoubtedly result in needless death, suffering, and expense among the people and families of Tennessee,” Myers said.
The wide-ranging bill sets a high bar for when masks could be required in schools and mostly stops businesses and government bodies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“By signing the bills you may further establish your credibility with a part of your constituency that’s more interested in political scorekeeping than the health and safety of the people of Tennessee,” the East Tennessee pastor said.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, has defended the bill, saying it pushes back against the federal government.
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“By signing the bill you will sure up the anti-science, anti-medicine and lie telling machine that’s content to weaponize ignorance and lies and ignore the best possible medical advice,” Myers said.
Rev. Don Jones, pastor of Sycamore tree United Methodist Church in Maryville, spoke specifically against the bill that would make school board races partisan.
“I can’t imagine a worse bill at a time that is so divisive,” Jones said noting scenes like the one in September at the Rutherford County School Board meeting. “Our leaders need to be people who are more committed to uniting us than dividing us.
“Every child in Tennessee, no matter where they live in the state, or the political leanings of their parents, deserves a quality education that provides them the skills they need to be productive, and successful citizens, not partisans, citizens, in the future. Making school board races partisan just serves the whims of those parties and politicians in Nashville, and not the children that public servants should aim to serve.
“In other words, we don’t want school board members putting parties before students.”
However, Lee is not wavering. His office confirmed he will sign the bill Friday.