My Letter to Governor Bill Haslam on the Tennessee Bathroom Bill

I am a heterosexual family man (born male and still male) whose family line on both sides goes back more than 200 years as citizens of Tennessee. In addition, I was once a member of a Southern Baptist Convention church here in Tennessee, and I am now a long-time member of the United Methodist Church.  This letter is sent specifically to ask you to oppose and veto the so-called Tennessee Bathroom Bill if it is passed by both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.

It is my understanding that this new bathroom bill in Tennessee is very similar to the controversial bathroom bill that has caused so much trouble and disgrace to descend upon North Carolina over the past few months.  I am kindly and gently asking you to oppose and veto the Tennessee Bathroom Bill for several very good reasons:

(1) The Bible says:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He [Jesus] said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all  your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Transgender people and LGBTQ people in general are our neighbors. This Tennessee Bathroom Bill fail’s the admonition of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves because it singles transgender people out for cruel discrimination by Tennesseans who choose to despise their neighbors in the name of Jesus Christ rather than love them.

(2)  This bill is not about protecting women and children in bathrooms. Instead, this bill is specifically designed to inflict persecution on the LGBTQ citizens of Tennessee.  Various Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical religious groups nationwide are angry because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage last summer, and they see this bill as an opportunity to take revenge on the LGBTQ community for that ruling.  No civilized human government on this planet takes out revenge on a group of its own citizens who have committed no crime—and especially not after affirmation of their civil rights by the highest court in the land.  If Tennessee were to do this to its own citizens through this Tennessee Bathroom Bill, the governments and peoples of the world would define it as barbarism plain and simple.  Great shame—and even economic and social retribution—would descend upon our fair Volunteer State.

(3)  Major corporations and businesses have threatened to leave North Carolina or refuse to relocate to North Carolina because of their bathroom bill.  I believe these organizations are dead serious in North Carolina, and Tennessee will soon face the same exodus if the Tennessee Bathroom Bill becomes law.  Tennesseans have spent countless hours of toil, gallons of sweat, and many tax dollars to make Tennessee a prime destination for American business.  If this silly bathroom bill is signed into law, it will turn back the clock on all of that hard work and place our economy in grave danger at a critical time when we are only now emerging from the second greatest economic disaster in American history.

(4)  In 1925, the militant Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical movement in the United States threw the state of Tennessee into the abyss of worldwide shame with the famous Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.  It took our state the better part of a century to recover from the damage that was done to the reputation of our state.  A famous Christian minister and college professor (Dr. Randall Balmer) at Barnard College in New York City has recently remarked that militant Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have been drawing moral lines in the sand ever since the American Civil War and declaring that Americans “must not cross this line.”  In each instance, like prohibition and oppressing African-American citizens under Jim Crow, American history has shown that they drew those lines in the wrong places—and they have a long history of such failures.  If God were truly on their side, you would think that they might have won at least some of the battles over those lines drawn in the sand.  They have not won a single major battle. This Tennessee Bathroom Bill is just another example of a line drawn in the sand at another wrong place.  If this bathroom bill is signed into law, Tennessee will fall into the same abyss that it did in 1925.   This state must never go there again.

(5)  As noted in my previous letter to you, you will only be in office for a couple of terms, and you have your historical legacy to consider. George C. Wallace thought he was doing the white citizens of Alabama a favor by persecuting its black citizens with Jim Crow laws and beatings in the streets. Despite his best attempts to repair the damage he had caused before he died, he nonetheless died in disgrace, and the history books remember only his disgraceful behavior.  I am enough of a historian to know FOR CERTAIN that if you sign this persecution-oriented bill and other similar bills that will be moving through the Tennessee General Assembly in the future, historians 100 years from now will remember you in the same shroud of disgrace as George C. Wallace—as a persecutor of the small and weak LGBTQ community in Tennessee. As Marc Anthony said in the Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar,” “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interrèd with their bones.” Please do not take the good things you did as Governor of Tennessee to the grave with you one day and leave only this evil behind for your legacy in our American history books. Discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ people who have committed no crimes against the laws of Tennessee or any other state is just plain wrong, and it will be remembered as such 100 years from now in the history books. I can guarantee you that it will.  Please oppose this silly Tennessee Bathroom Bill and veto it if it ever crosses your desk.

Thank you for your time.

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