As I was sorting out a stack of books a few days ago, I came across “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. The title interrupted my train of thought by reminding me of our current Tennessee Legislature. Today's legislators of today are of a different sort than their forefathers who wrote and ratified the Tennessee Constitution of 1796.
Those men – women would not get the right to vote until the 19th Century, so they were all men -- and in my not humble opinion were much more rational than the ideology driven simpletons now administering the laws in today’s legislature. Take their attitude towards keeping religion and government separate, for instance.
A prohibition against mixing civil law and religious matters is expressed in Article 8, Section 1 of the original Tennessee Constitution: “Whereas the ministers of the Gospel are by their professions, dedicated to God and the case of Souls and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions therefore no minister of the Gospel, or Priest of any denomination whatever shall be eligible to a Seat in either house of the Legislature.”
The section banning clergy was eventually overruled as unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution but Tennessee was among the last of the states to to drop the prohibition. The founders of our state had strong feelings about mixing government and religion. Those men were just a few years removed from the scourge of state-sanctioned religion and the problems that always followed. Tennessee's legislature today is all but openly encouraging by their attitudes, the persecution of the minority religions in this state..
Unfortunately, the failure of the present legislature to keep religious beliefs from motivating the passing of civil laws as the original founding fathers did, is not the only thing accomplished by our present lawmakers, who now cater to anyone or any idea no matter how bizarre if it seems to be popular with the masses.
Our state's founders believed in the right of the people of this state to keep and bear firearms, but added a little common sense in Article 1, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution's Declaration of Rights, the equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights. “That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”
Most states and municipalities took it as common sense that letting every yahoo go armed – including violent criminals and the insane – without restriction was hazardous and did not view it as a restriction of constitutional rights or basic human rights. The current legislature has now made it legal for even drunken tavern customers to walk around armed. Of course, they tossed common sense out the window several years ago.
The sitting legislators see no reason to keep creation theology from being taught in science classrooms; no problem with passing religious beliefs as a basis for unconstitutionally discriminating against gay people; taking money from the state's poorest children to punish them for failing grades; making it illegal for teachers to mention homosexuality under the guise of protecting them from imaginary lawsuits; and of late, a movement to legalize discrimination in this state.
I helped a friend of mine in that legislature get elected a few years ago. He seemed to be a rational, fair man, but I’ve begun to suspect that stupidity is catching.