County Commissioner Karen Miller wants to save Blount County 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 were unsuccessful.
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 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 said.
“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.