NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A day after Governor Bill Lee and Republican legislative leaders celebrated the end of the 2021 session, pastors from West to East Tennessee are sounding the alarm, calling many of the key legislative priorities “heartless”.
Republicans at the Tennessee State Capitol say they have delivered “conservative wins” to address many of the state’s most pressing problems.
“Amos 5:15 states ‘hate evil, love good and establish justice in the gate.’ Our state leaders are the guardians of the gate; it is their job to establish justice and care for the community inside the gate, but instead they have abandoned that role for political game, corrupt power grabs and culture wars,” Rev. Matt Steinhauer, Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon said.
Lee is touting bills on education, infrastructure, public safety and criminal justice reform.
Faith leaders say the attempts to address the issues are misguided.
“Our legislators spent a good part of this year’s session moving legislation rooted in fear and divisive partisan issues, such as banning trans-youth from athletics and this week to ban public school educators from teaching about the history and realities of systemic racism,” said Rev. Dr. Lillian Slammers, Associate Pastor of First Congregational Church in Memphis.
They also say cutting unemployment benefits in a pandemic is atypical of Christian teachings.
“People looking for work, people who have to jump through hoops and climb hurdles to get that assistance and to wait for weeks and weeks and weeks to receive it have 26 weeks of insurance when they finally clear that hurdle, the Tennessee legislature has kept cut help from 26 weeks more in half to 12 weeks,” Rev James Sessions, retired United Methodist pastor in Knoxville said.
Cameron Sexton, Speaker of the House, said the bills passed in the session “will continue to move this state forward in a conservative direction.”