June 2018 Church & State Magazine - June 2018

Tennessee Proposal Fails To Add ‘Almighty God’ To State Constitution

  Liz Hayes

A Tennessee lawmaker’s proposal to amend the state constitution by inserting language about “Almighty God” failed to advance before the legislature adjourned on April 25.

State Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) last year proposed House Joint Resolution 37, which would have amended the Tennessee Constitution by adding the line “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God.” It was the second time Van Huss had proposed the amendment.

“It is important that we give the citizens of Tennessee the opportunity to reaffirm that their liberties do not come from Donald Trump, Bar­ack Obama, or the King of England. They come from God,” Van Huss said in a statement when he introduced the resolution last year, according to the Johnson City Press.

The proposal passed the state House last year and was forwarded to the state Senate, which had to read aloud identical language three times on three separate days and approve it before the legislative session ended this year for the measure then to be added to the ballot in a voter referendum in 2022.

Van Huss’ amendment appeared to be well on its way to voters when the Senate began to consider the bill in the last month of the session. But the Senate had amended the resolution by proposing to place the “Almighty God” line in a different section of the constitution. That meant the House had to approve the amended resolution – after reading it aloud on three separate days, according to Nashville Public Radio.

As the legislature was planning to adjourn, Van Huss begged fellow representatives to extend their session by two days to accomplish the readings. His urging led to a failed vote to adjourn, even though the legislature had completed its other business.

Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Nash­ville) said his pastor assured him that “Jesus would not want to be in a political document,” according to The Tennessee Journal. Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) argued that the current state constitution avoids religious bias, and that “we should let the wisdom of our founders of Tennessee stand.”

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