I write this letter as a native citizen and lifelong resident of Tennessee. Last week, Gov. Bill Lee gave the people of Tennessee a lump of coal for Christmas.
Not only is his statewide limit on public gatherings unconstitutional, but his never-ending state of perpetual emergency is as well. Both are unconscionable in a democratic republic.
This letter focuses mostly on the state issues. But certainly, such a ban punches the First Amendment in the face regarding the freedom to assemble.
As the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
As such, I will not comply with this illegal order. No man has the power to cancel Christmas. Our right to assembly is a gift from God, not Bill Lee.
I also vehemently take issue with Lee’s statement that, “this vaccine will not cure selfishness and indifference. I believe Tennesseans have a tremendous capacity to make responsible decisions, and we need you to wear a mask and consider alternate holiday gatherings.”
Since when were family gatherings and exercising one’s God-given freedoms selfish? Thomas Jefferson must be turning over in his grave.
Lee’s fiats are built on the premise of Tennessee’s Emergency Powers Act as written in T.C.A. 58-2-107. As important as the Tennessee Code Annotated is, it does not override the Constitution (state or federal). Nor does Bill Lee.
Lee has issued 70 executive orders just shy of two years in office.
In eight years, his predecessor, Bill Haslam, issued 77 orders. Phil Bredesen wrote 74 in that time. And Don Sundquist issued 38 executive orders in eight years.
A number of district attorneys came out earlier this year and said they would not enforce Lee’s Safer at Home order because it was unconstitutional.
To think that one man can lay aside dozens of laws for month after month with no checks by the legislative or judicial branches violates the spirit of the state and federal constitutions and bills of rights, going against the very premise of America’s founding.
Thomas Jefferson is reported to have said that Tennessee has the "least imperfect and most republican of the state constitutions.”
The 111th General Assembly dismissed in May. Since then, committee meetings have been held, including an ad hoc committee on the governor’s use of executive orders. Even if approved, the committee’s suggestions will not take effect until after Lee leaves office.
We The People are not being heard.
That will not change even after the 112th General Assembly convenes in January, UNLESS it takes action on immediately curbing Lee’s never-ending declarations.
Did you know our Tennessee Constitution has a Preamble and Declaration of Rights, similar to those immortal U.S. documents?
Tennessee’s Preamble and Declaration of Rights says in part, “We, the delegates and representatives of the people of the state of Tennessee, duly elected, and in convention assembled, in pursuance of said act of Assembly have ordained and established the following Constitution and form of government for this state, which we recommend to the people of Tennessee for their ratification.”
That means the citizens of Tennessee have empowered our constitution; it is not by a governor’s fiat.
To read through the constitution is to realize Lee has trampled all over the state’s highest laws.
I am not listing everything here for the sake of brevity, but I encourage you to read the Tennessee Constitution. Read Article 1, Sections 1, 2, 20 and 23.
Also read Section 2: “No person or persons belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others, except in the cases herein directed or permitted.” The departments are legislative, judicial and executive.
Gov. Lee and each legislator have taken an oath to uphold the constitution. Lee does not seem inclined to listen to objections to his unconstitutional acts.
Therefore, I call upon the members of the 112th General Assembly to take immediate action in January to curb Lee’s fiats.
Your constituents, We The People, are watching and waiting.
Jason M. Reynolds is a reporter for the Murfreesboro Post and a native of Tennessee. He is writing this column in his capacity as a private citizen.