County Commissioner Karen Miller wants to save Blount County (Tennessee)
from the “wrath” of God.
Miller, who represents District 4, is sponsoring a resolution asking that
the Supreme Being “pass us by in His coming wrath and not destroy our
county as he did Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring cities” because of
the June 26 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same-sex
marriage throughout the nation.
The Blount County Commission will get its first look at the resolution at
Tuesday’s Agenda Committee meeting. Attempts to reach Miller for comment
Public debate concerning the resolution could turn fiery as opinions seem
to be strong on both sides of the issue. Ginny West Case, a retired
Christian educator in the United Methodist Church, said the God of Miller’s
resolution doesn’t sound like the God she knows.
“That is not a primary characteristic of the God I know and love,” she
said. “I’m tired of God being used as a battering ram. The Bible, over and
over, tells us God is the God of love and grace and mercy.”
Case has an idea that God’s anger might be be focused elsewhere than on
same-sex marriages. “I think the wrath of God is more inclined to fall on
those people who are so condemning and judgmental,” she said. “… But, I
believe more greatly in the grace of God, and I believe the grace of God
makes room for all people at the table.”
Miller’s resolution takes aim at the Supreme Court decision that ended
same-sex marriage bans in Tennessee and 13 other states. In it she writes,
“With a firm reliance upon the providence of Almighty God we the Blount
County Legislature call upon all of the Officers of the State of Tennessee,
the Governor, the Attorney General, and the members of the Tennessee
Legislature, to join us and utilize all authority within their power to
protect natural marriage, from lawless court opinions, and the financial
schemes of the enemies of righteousness wherever the source and defend the
moral standards of Tennessee.”
Brett Rich, a Blount County resident, contacted The Daily Times through
email to express his disappointment with the resolution.
“I have received information that Blount County wants to vote on a
resolution asking God to not harm our county because our county follows the
law of the United States. I find the wording of their resolution to be a
very sad form of intolerance from our government.
“My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, on Sept. 1, by finally
having the opportunity to be legally married,” Rich writes. “We work, raise
our niece, pay taxes, support local charities, vote in the elections, mow
our yard, purchase groceries, etc. We are the same as any other couple and
are very proud that our government finally has to recognize our marriage:
giving us the same rights as every other Blount County citizen.
“I just had to let my feelings be known about the ridiculous waste of time
and tax dollars that Karen Miller and Blount County government will be
using to address my marriage and what they seem to be saying about my
husband and myself and our relationship.
Government should be doing things to make life better for all of its
citizens instead of wasting time and money to show hate, intolerance and
trying to remove equal rights for their constituents.”
Gwen Schablik of the Tennessee Equality Project is planning to attend the
meeting to speak against the resolution. She said she is recruiting others
to come as well and wear red to show their support for marriage equality.
“Being a resident of the county, it’s just shocking,” Schablik said. “… You
just can’t pick one religious view and let it dictate marriage laws for
everyone. In our county, there are same-sex couples, there are same-sex
families. The law should protect them. It’s really sad.
“There was a similar resolution, not even calling for fire and brimstone,
passed in Greene County, but that was calling for the state to take action.
It definitely wasn’t an attack on the people in its county. I just talked
to a mother, a lesbian mother, they have two twin kids, one of the kids is
in tears already over this issue.”
About Sodom and Gommorah
Dr. Phillip Michael Sherman, associate professor of religion at Maryville
College, said that the story of Sodom and Gommorah from the Bible has often
been used to argue against same-sex activity, but “a close reading of that
story reveals something else is probably taking place.”
“This is not a story about homosexuality as we might conceive it, but this
is a story about sexual violence and particularly against those from
outside the community. The people who are threatened are visitors to the
city of Sodom and Gommorah. It is actually the failure of the people to
respect them and the people’s desire to mistreat them, which confirms for
God the evil reports he has heard about this city.”
Sherman cited Ezekiel 16:49 to bolster his interpretation.
“When it does show up in the book of Ezekiel, there is a very clear
stipulation about what their sin was,” he said.
“It’s what we would think of in terms of social justice, lack of care and
concern for those on the margins of society,” Sherman said. “That
particular sin is one that most folks would say see still struggle with to
this day. It has nothing to do with sexual orientations we conceive it in
the modern world.”
Maryville resident Gordon Irwin contacted The Daily Times to speak against
the resolution. “This resolution seeks to restrict the rights of LGBT
persons to marriage based on the beliefs held by some Christians and
others,” he wrote.
“Clearly it is inconsistent with the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
which precludes government making laws ‘respecting an establishment of
religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’
“The resolution seeks to invalidate the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme
Court finding no basis for denying LGBT persons marriage equality,” Irwin
wrote. “As in ‘Loving v. Virginia,’ the 1967 case allowing marriage of
Negro and Caucasian persons, marriage of LGBT persons is a right that
cannot be denied under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.”
“I don’t know Ms. Miller, but her beliefs are likely held by the majority
of individuals and churches in Blount County. However, we should be mindful
they are not held by everyone and many individuals and mainline Christian
groups like the Episcopalians, USA Presbyterians, the United Church of
Christ, and churches of the Unitarian Universalist Association recognize
marriage equality, along with significant numbers of United Methodists and
others,” Irwin writes. “Jesus had nothing to say about LGBT persons, but a
lot to say about being hospitable. Many mainstream Christian theologians
believe Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of aggressive and
inhospitable behavior to outsiders. It seems to me the resolution being
considered by the Blount County Commission if passed will show Blount
County as an inhospitable place. Is that how we want to be known?”
The Blount County Agenda Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room
430 of the courthouse.