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Silenced Tennessee Pastor Fights Back for Unborn

Pastor Mark Carr is pushing back against the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (TDCS) and its attempts to shut down his website chastizing the department for effectively facilitating an out-of-state abortion for a 13-year-old teen from Sevier County against parental wishes.

TDCS had previously removed the teen and her three siblings from their parents’ custody. After the teen’s caregiver made provisions for her to receive an abortion in Atlanta, pastor Carr developed his “Johnathan’s Law” website in honor of the aborted child, who was aborted at 21 weeks. TDCS filed a motion in the Sevier County Juvenile Court asking that the website be taken down leading Carr’s attorney to file a “Notice of Removal” in federal court asking it to take the case from the Juvenile Court and block the TDCS attempt to violate his First Amendment rights to free speech.

“We are working to get laws passed to prohibit something like this from ever happening again,” the “Johnathan’s Law” website reads. “We believe no 13-year-old girl should be taken to another state to murder a baby when that murder is illegal in Tennessee. Those that do these things need to be exposed and brought to justice.”

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Tennessee Supreme Court Avoids Constitutional Showdown for Now

Last Friday, the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected an application for permission to appeal a decision by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Division, upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit by pastors and citizens challenging actions taken by Williamson County’s Clerk subsequent to the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.

FACT President David Fowler, counsel for the plaintiffs, said that neither the Tennessee Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal nor the decision of the appellate court resolved the constitutional questions his clients had tried to raise. That question, Mr. Fowler said, was whether the federal courts’ judicial power includes the power to order state officials to take actions not authorized by state law and, in fact, forbidden by the state constitution.

“The appellate court,” Mr. Fowler said, “only held that the pastors and citizens did not have standing to make the particular claims they asserted.” He noted that a similar case filed in Bradley County was not dismissed and is currently pending before Judge Mike Pemberton.

Mr. Fowler also said he has been working with lawyers on a new lawsuit that would present different claims that came to light during the existing litigation. He said it would be far harder for a Tennessee judge not to hear these claims.

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Middle Tennessee Pastors Appreciation Luncheon

Next Tuesday, October 23, the Bott Radio Network, on whose stations The Family Action Council of Tennessee’s FACT Report is heard, is hosting its first-ever Middle Tennessee Pastor’s Appreciation luncheon. The free luncheon for pastors (and other ministers on staff with a local church) will be at Judson Baptist Church, 4900 Franklin Road, Nashville. It will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and FACT’s president, David Fowler, will be the keynote speaker, bringing encouraging remarks drawn from 1 Corinthians, Chapters 1 and 2. If you are not on staff with a church, share this invitation with those you know who are. Registration and additional event information are at this link.

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Sen. Mark Norris Confirmed as West Tennessee Federal Judge

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) was confirmed last week by the U.S. Senate as a new federal judge for West Tennessee. Said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who recommended Norris to the president, “He is respected by his peers around the country, having been elected chairman of the Council of State Governments, and has been an advocate and a champion for federalism and for the separation of powers.”

Norris is not expected to resign until after the November election, meaning a special election would be held to determine his replacement. Assuming that’s what Norris does, the governor will issue a writ of election setting primary elections within 55–60 days of the writ and the general election within 100–107 days. The Shelby County Commission could appoint an interim senator to serve until the successor is elected.

Possible replacements for the seat include former Shelby County Commissioners Heidi Shafer and David Reaves, state Rep. Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville), and state Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis). Possible contenders for Norris’ Senate majority leader position are Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said of Norris, “While we will all miss his keen mind, sound judgment and strong leadership in state government, we can take comfort in the fact our federal courts have gained an outstanding judge.” Norris has served in the state Legislature since 2001.

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Amendment 1 Finally Settled After 17 Years

Monday was a day of victory for the lives of the unborn and health of pregnant women in Tennessee. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge to Tennessee’s Amendment 1 that had been rejected earlier this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Originally approved by Tennessee voters (53–47%) in the November 2014 election, Amendment 1 has been tied up in court ever since Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion activists challenged whether the method used by the state to determine if a state constitutional amendment has been adopted violated the U.S. Constitution. That challenge has now come to an end and the validity of the amendment upheld.

Amendment 1 added language to Article 1 of the Tennessee Constitution declaring that none of its provisions “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion,” and that the “people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion.” The amendment reversed a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in which a right to abortion was found in the state’s Constitution.

This victory, 17 years in the making, was initiated when FACT’s president, David Fowler, then a state senator, filed the first resolution to amend the Constitution. As a result of Tennessee’s success on the measure, similar amendments will be voted on this November in West Virginia and Alabama.

On October 4, Fowler was interviewed about the Amendment 1 victory on FRC’s Washington Watch show. Listen to this mp3 audio segment from the show from 27:57–33:38. FRC’s Tony Perkins conducted the interview.

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