ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission approved a resolution that now declares the county a constitutional sanctuary.
The measure was proposed by District 5 Commissioner Mark DeWitte at Monday’s commission meeting. It passed 18-0 with District 1 Commissioner George Bridwell abstaining and two commissioners absent.
According to the resolution, the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Tennessee both provide citizens with certain rights that recent laws have tried to prohibit.
“As recently proposed legislation and executive orders from the president of the United States and Congress and the executive branch of the state of Tennessee have sought to limit or eliminate certain traditionally held rights of the people guaranteed under the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Tennessee,” states DeWitte’s resolution.
The resolution states that as a constitutional sanctuary, Hawkins County will “reaffirm the protection of liberties found in the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Tennessee.”
Additionally, the resolution states that no one affiliated with Hawkins County in an official capacity can “knowingly participate whether by act or omission in conduct that infringes upon any individuals’ rights as expressed by the United States Constitution and the constitution of the state of Tennessee.”
The resolution encourages county officials to fight any action that goes against either constitution legally.
Many people spoke at the meeting about the resolution, including Jack Parker. He said he believes that the county government is the key to giving power back to the people when the federal government takes it away.
“Many at the highest levels of government, in particular, find it expedient to break or severely distort (constitutional principles) when it is politically expedient,” Parker said. “We see the effects of this on a daily basis as the country we knew crumbles beneath our feet and our rights evaporate like snowflakes. Personally, I don’t have much hope for reforming the corrupt federal system with its many lawmaking agencies run by unelected so-called experts with revolving-doors cash corporations. I believe a local government is our best hope to save this county, and this resolution is a step towards returning power back to the people.”
Parker said he has spoken to people who agree and disagree with his point of view.
“On an individual basis, I’m sorry to have to hurt people’s feelings, well-meaning people who disagree with me,” he said. “However, the self-style belief in this country (by those) who control the federal government consider us deplorables, domestic terrorists who would have no right to bear arms, no freedom of speech or religion, no equal justice under the law, and no right to work or pursue happiness.”
Parker said those who disagree with the resolution might be happier living somewhere outside of Hawkins County.
Hawkins County resident Bobbi Smith said people should not be pushed out of the community just because others disagree with their political views.
“One of the main tenants of the Constitution is the separation of church and state, and we have a variety of religions in this county,” Smith said. “We are not even necessarily all God-fearing; some of us are Muslim or Buddhist, or we’re a variety of Christians who aren’t represented in this group but are represented in our county. Tennessee is a welcoming place. … Hawkins County was and is a welcoming place to live; you shouldn’t turn away your neighbors because you disagree on a political issue or religious issue.”
Rev. Sheldon Livesay said now is the time to fight for rights.
“There’s a time for everything, and this is a time that we should stand around our county and protect the rights that we’ve been given by God,” Livesay said. “We believe (Hawkins) County can make a difference.”
Livesay talked about a time in the Bible when Moses led the Israelites in battle. He said that when Moses held his staff, it meant that “they looked to God for their help.” Livesay talked about how Moses and the Israelites were protecting their families by fighting.
According to Livesay, 1,463 families moved into Hawkins County over the past two years, and he talked about the rights provided in the Declaration of Independence.
“Many have fled persecution where they lived,” Livesay said. “Our residents need us to protect them.”
District 1 Commissioner Bridwell, who voted to abstain, proposed sending the resolution to committee before voting so that more people in Hawkins County can give input.
“I’m not opposed to people wanting to have sanctuary cities,” Bridwell said. “I’m opposed to the fact that maybe enough people haven’t participated in knowing about the pluses and minuses of it.”
Community member Larry Thompson said the community needs to leave a legacy for the next generation.
“What we’re asking here is to protect our constitutional rights from a government that wants to steal them away from us,” he said. “It’s important that we leave a legacy for our kids and our grandchildren so that they know we stood up and did the right thing in our life for them.”