Monday, March 25, 2019

I Was Called a Demonic Murderer, So I Went to the Gym

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about sneaky (shall we say "swampy") activity being done by my local government in Mount Juliet, TN. I won't rehash the details here, as my original post is expertly crafted by a very humble author. And you can Google my town and "abortion clinic" and find all kinds of journalistic offerings.

Quick summary, though - Abortion clinic arrived. People got mad. The mayor called a special meeting of the city commission on a Sunday night to propose rezoning surgical abortion clinics to industrial areas. The mayor insisted this special meeting had nothing to do with the new clinic, as I'm sure the city attorney advised him that using zoning to target a specific business is illegal. I went to the next regularly scheduled city commission meeting and asked why the special meeting was necessary if there was no specific threat. I got no answer other than I would have to ask the mayor and he wasn't there for the first time in a year. I also got no concrete answer when I emailed my commissioner (just that the mayor asked him to show up for a special meeting and he had no idea why until he got there . . .). And when The Chronicle of Mount Juliet reported on its front page that the meeting was called WITH the purpose of limiting the efforts of the new clinic, I asked the editor if she meant to refute the mayor's claims that he was not targeting a specific business but I never heard back.

This brings me to tonight. The commission met once again and part of the agenda was a second vote on the rezoning. It was approved quickly and unanimously and without discussion. I thought about going to the meeting and speaking up again, as I'm still looking for answers I don't think they want to give. I decided to go to the gym instead. Why? Not because I've given up. Not at all. But I prayed about it and lost sleep over it and asked several friends for advice about it and realized that the members of the commission who smirked at me the last time I showed up don't care what I think. I imagine they know full well that they are not being straightforward with their intentions, but that's OK because they have a majority of constituents who think they are noble and brave for their efforts.

Here's the thing. A cornerstone of what makes American government different and special in how it operates, from the federal to the local level, is that we have a system in place that was designed to protect opinions and people and businesses we do not like. Adhering to the rule of law and restrictions on government power is difficult to do when the consequences are unpopular or you personally find them abhorrent, but that is EXACTLY when it's so important. The Federalist Papers tell us so.

What if one of the commissioners in my city moves to a liberal town in California due to a job transfer and decides he wants to open a church in an abandoned K-Mart because there is nowhere to worship within thirty miles? And then, what if the local officials of this California town, all of whom are atheists, suddenly call a special meeting to rezone houses of worship to industrial areas due to made up traffic concerns that supposedly would happen when everyone leaves service at the same time? Clearly, these politicians are changing the zoning to target a specific K-mart turned church building. And that would be wrong. But, if my commissioner is not willing to do things the right way when it comes to restricting abortion clinics, he would have no leg to stand on if my hypothetical regarding his proposed church ever comes to pass.

When my elected officials ignore established legal precedent, when they decide that limitations on government don't apply when they want to have an activist government to meet their own moral agenda, I get really upset. I stay awake thinking about it. My jaw gets tight. Yes, I realize I'm in the overwhelming minority with this problem.

People who seek office should act with integrity and with a consistent respect for our system. I know . . . how naive of me. But I love our country and its promise and we deserve nothing less.

So I've been asking myself this question a lot this week - how do I best use my frustrated energy? I decided that I should use it to write to people who care about being aboveboard with their politics and want to help. I should use it to talk to my neighbors and to begin the groundwork to bring in new representation. The town has grown in ways that make it unrecognizable from just fifteen years ago, with people from across the country moving here to be a part of all that is happening in Nashville. They bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to our town and they are not being represented. We all know that voter turnout in local elections is pathetically low. I am compiling a list of determined men and women in my district who are frustrated by what is happening. We are out there. You give us a couple of years to talk to those around us and we will be ready to work with conviction and purpose by the next election in 2022. I'm patient and I have a long and impressive memory.

And, in closing, here is one more reason that I am stepping back and refocusing how I exert my efforts at the local level . . .

Earlier this month, because I spoke out about wanting my government to act with transparency, I was called a "demonic woman who murders babies with poison pills." I don't think I'm possessed by a demon and I'm quite sure that I've never murdered a baby, by poison or any other means. When I made the mistake of engaging this fine gentleman and telling him that my advocacy is not for abortion but for consistent adherence to the rule of law and limited government, he responded, "I don't care how they did it. I'm just glad they did it." When I did a bit of internet research later, the irony that this man had the Constitution as the cover photo of his Facebook page was not lost on me.

I thank this lovely fellow because my exchange with him made me realize that some interactions are going to be fruitless. He is convinced that I'm demonic and he is willing to overlook his supposed Facebook-worthy love for the Constitution when the inconsistency meets his desired end. And, the mayor and members of the city commission also are convinced that they are doing the right thing even though it skirts around the law, when it's actually quite wrong. So, for the sake of personal time that is so scant in my single working mom world and for the sake of that whole "accept the things I cannot change" piece of the serenity prayer, I lifted weights and did so many squats that walking make prove challenging in the morning instead of metaphorically beating my head against a political wall tonight. I made a good choice. It will make me stronger for the work to come tomorrow.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Abortion Clinics, Shady Politicians, and an Ego-Driven Pastor

Over the past several days, some shady and depressing business has gone down in my town of Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

Quick background. One month ago, there were no abortion services available in the greater Nashville area. Women would travel to Knoxville or Memphis or even Atlanta for the procedure. This week, Planned Parenthood has announced it will resume the practice at its downtown location and another for-profit abortion clinic called Carafem put its name on a door inside a medical building where I live in Mount Juliet.

What has transpired since then has been disappointing. I write this not as an advocate for abortion. Debating the morality of abortion, while important, is not the point of this post. Instead, I want to focus on the galling way my city government handled its response.

Carafem did not advertise its arrival to our town. The business did not ask for permission from the surrounding residents. However, when word got out that the clinic's opening was imminent, the reaction was swift and passionate. Many people wondered how such an establishment could be allowed within our city limits. In his response to the multiple inquiries, Mayor Ed Hagerty responded as follows:

The city nor the planning commission has no role [sic] in approving/disapproving specific businesses/operations. The city and the planning commission do have a role in approving a new structure. In this case, the structure was approved many years ago and various businesses, many medical related, have come and gone since then . . . Operations of this type do not even need to get a city business license to open. They are issued a license by the state. They then contact the owner of the building and rent space. No one at the city knew about this. 

Well, there you have it. A majority of residents in Mount Juliet are appalled by the presence of an abortion clinic in their town, but Carafem moved through the correct legal channels so there's not much you can do.

Enter Ray Justice and Greg Locke.

City Commissioner Ray Justice wrote:

We are pursuing every possible legal option to stop this "organization" from being in Mt. Juliet. To a man, our city commission is Christian Conservative and will not just "let this happen" without fighting. The question is, "is this the hill you're prepared to die on?" The answer is an emphatic, YES!

You are welcome to conduct a quick internet search of Commissioner Justice and reach your own conclusions about his character. And apparently, if you are conservative but also Christian, then the traditional notion of conservatives advocating little to no interference in private business is moot.

Pastor Greg Locke, who leads Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet and who is a super big fan of himself, posted videos for his 1.5 million Facebook subscribers in which he vows that the abortion clinic will not last on his watch. Locke has quite the devoted following and has received national attention for his inflammatory messages because, like I've mentioned, he really likes himself and touts his own accomplishments . . . because humility as a follower of Christ is totally overrated.

You are welcome to conduct a quick internet search of Greg Locke to reach your own conclusions about his character and watch some of the name calling and redirect he employs. There are plenty of videos from which to choose. Even that fake news organization CNN has noticed him! Lots of people think he's awesome - maybe you will, too!

With the wheels set in motion to oppose the arrival of the abortion clinic by any means necessary, the City Commission held an emergency meeting on a Sunday night. Pastor Locke was invited to speak. The City Commission quickly passed an ordinance, unanimously, requiring all abortion clinics performing surgical procedures to be located only in areas zoned as "industrial general." Yeah, lady . . . the front door to the clinic is over there between that pile of recycled tires and those metal pipes. While Carafem does not offer surgical abortion at this time, only birth control and the abortion pill, its owners have indicated that the office may expand to a surgical option in the future. So clearly, this was an attempt to throw a wrench specifically into Carafem's business before it could get started.

Then, the mayor and all of the city commissioners played dumb. They insisted that the emergency ordinance was not passed with the intention of targeting any particular business, as no business wanting to perform surgical abortions had even applied for a permit with the city. The mayor even said to the media, "I don't even know what business you're referring to." Huh? Abortion clinic? What abortion clinic? Come on.

This is ridiculous, of course, because if this was just another ho-hum zoning ordinance with no targeted purpose, why was it an emergency? Why couldn't the proposed ordinance wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting of the commission on Monday, March 11? Of course the vote was directed at Carafem. But please, play us for fools.

The commissioners even said the measure was passed for the "health, safety, and welfare" of the citizens of our town, but also were emphatic in their responses that the zoning ordinance would affect no other ambulatory surgery procedures other than abortion when people asked if ear tubes for their kids or their upcoming carpal tunnel surgery would be affected. So I want to know - how does restricting only one type of ambulatory surgery to an isolated industrial park show a consistent concern for the "health, safety, and welfare" of our residents?

This effort was clear in its purpose but yet the "brave" elected officials who scurried to hold a meeting danced around being forthright about their goal.

I am sure this story is far from over. There will be lawsuits and protests and fun comments on social media pages like "women need to keep their legs closed" and, in response to the hypothetical scenario of an eleven-year-old getting impregnated through rape, "God doesn't make mistakes." Precious and grace-filled, to be sure.

As a voting and informed constituent, I am angered by the backhanded way that my local representatives have handled the situation. My frustration would be the same if any issue was dealt with this way. Their actions show a lack of respect for transparency and the rule of law. I also am uncomfortable with the notion that we should be cool with government being heavy handed only when its efforts align with our own moral agenda.

And, as a Christian who clings to the love and grace of Jesus, I am saddened by the cruel way others who hold the mantle of Christianity are treating some of our brothers and sisters.  For a town that touts its Christian credentials, we can do better.