Press Releases

TNGOP to Schools: Ignore ACLU on Prayer Suit

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; October 10, 2013:

Dear Superintendent:

One week ago, you likely received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN). The message is the latest yearly missive sent out by the far-left organization meant to intimidate Tennessee students and high school athletes from exercising their First Amendment rights.

The group behind the letter misses a very basic principle about the First Amendment: It was written—not to protect government from religion—but to ensure religious freedoms are not violated by the government.

Moreover, the ACLU-TN willfully misrepresents a point highlighted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case it cites. The Court has found:

“(N)othing in the Constitution…prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.” Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 313 (2000).

When it comes to this issue, we stand with families across Tennessee who want to protect expressions of faith in the public forum and the precious freedoms we all hold dear.

It should be noted this is a Tennessee issue, not a partisan one. My colleague who leads the Tennessee Democratic Party, Roy Herron, was actually the first individual to lay out this position. In an opinion piece he authored as a State Senator about this very issue for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Herron wrote, “The Constitution does not require government hostility to religion.”

He wrote this to give a public explanation for the Tennessee Student Religious Liberty Act. The law was meant to “prevent government discrimination against religion, and to see that students’ existing constitutional rights are honored.” Essentially, the law enshrines the Court’s finding in Santa Fe here in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Legislature further clarified what is permissible in Tennessee schools recently with the passage of a law that ensures “school administrators may not prohibit personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are initiated by students.”

Obviously, the ACLU-TN is using scare tactics and the implied threat of litigation to stamp out the First Amendment rights of students. Not only is this a transparent political stunt, it is a misreading of the law and misunderstanding of Tennessee’s unique spiritual heritage.

With a new week of football games set to kick off, we write today to tell you we stand with you and the millions of Tennesseans who want to express their rights and not cower to the liberal self-interests of a leftwing organization.


Chris Devaney
Tennessee Republican Party


Perry’s Prayer Event Won’t Have Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam has gotten attention for not having plans to attend an Aug. 6 prayer rally in Houston hosted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the American Family Association — an event that has drawn criticism for AFA’s anti-gay activism.

Haslam and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were also noted in a report in the Washington Independent for their decision to skip the event at Reliant Stadium. The American Family Association is known for advocating Christian values but has become controversial in part because of its strong stand against homosexuals.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are the only governors scheduled to attend with Perry thus far. The event — titled, “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis” — is billed as a day of prayer and fasting. Perry has invited all of the nation’s governors to the event.

The Independent report referred to a Haslam staffer saying the governor has a prior commitment, which was unidentified. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also been noted for having no plans to attend, as have Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Perry is a source of speculation about a potential run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He is chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Haslam was criticized by GLBT advocates in May for signing a bill from the Tennessee General Assembly that prohibits local governments from imposing anti-discrimination practices in ways that go beyond state law. Nashville’s Metro Council had approved an ordinance that required city contractors to follow rules against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Haslam headed a group of state leaders at an annual prayer breakfast in Nashville in April. That event was held at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena.

Perry’s invitation to The Response says, “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”