House votes to praise God for liberty in TN Constitution

The House voted 69-17 Monday evening in favor of adding this sentence to the Tennessee state Constitution:

“We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God.”

Virtually the only debate was an exchange between the sponsor of HJR37, Republican Rep. Micah Van Huss of Gray, and Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville. Van Huss began by reading quotations from various prominent political figures, ranging from Thomas Jefferson to President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who tied liberty to God in one way or another.

But Jernigan said those “great men” were not inserting their comments into a constitution.

“Don’t you see the irony here?” he asked Van Huss, noting the sentence would be added as a new section to Article I of the state Constitution, which is a declaration of citizen rights. “You want to put this phrase into the document you say doesn’t give us liberties.”

Van Huss replied that some liberties are from God, some from government. He did not directly respond to Jernigan’s question to list the liberties came from God, but said that abortion “is not a God-given liberty.” He acknowledged that “if you think government has taken away your God-given rights, you go to your government” for redress of the grievance.

“I would say this is a statement of how I would like things to be, not the way they have been,” said Van Huss. “I want to give Tennesseans the right to voice their opinion at the polls.”

Jernigan also asked about those who do not believe in God. Replied Van Huss: “Folks who don’t believe in God, well, they can vote against this resolution, if they like.” Jernigan said he does believe in God and “I don’t want to go to hell so I talked to my pastor about it.” The pastor advised him, Jernigan said, that “Jesus would not want to be in a political document” and had other concerns, including care of the poor.

Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, briefly observed that “in this body, it’s going to be hard to vote against this amendment” though he had misgivings about inserting the phrase into the state constitution.

Shortly after the exchange, the House voted to shut off debate on a “previous question” motion and approved the resolution. (Travis voted yes.)

The resolution next needs Senate approval and apparently won’t be considered in that chamber until next year. If approved then in the second year of 110th General Assembly, it will have to win approval by two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate – 69 votes would meet that standard in the House – during the 111th General Assembly, which will convene in 2019. It would then have to be approved by voters in the next gubernatorial election year, which would be 2022.

UPDATE/NOTE: Van Huss issued a news release on the vote Tuesday. Here it is:

(NASHVILLE) — HJR037, a Resolution to amend the Tennessee Constitution to include the statement “We recognize that our Liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God,” passed the House Monday in a 69 – 17 vote.

“This is an important step in reaffirming a founding principle of our nation and expressly stating this principle in the Tennessee Constitution”, said Representative Micah Van Huss (R – Gray).  “I am honored to be able to carry this legislation that will give the citizens of this state the opportunity to amend their State Constitution in this way.”

Van Huss continued, “Last month, we passed a bill giving words their natural meaning.  We’ve never lived in a time such as we do now.  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.”


Next year, House Joint Resolution 037 will go to the Senate for a vote. If it passes, the Resolution must then be passed by the 111th General Assembly (2019-2020).  From there, it would go before the citizens of Tennessee for a vote in the 2022 General Election.

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