About Me

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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and on the Finance Ways and Means Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Have Joy - Christmas is Legal

This year we are once more in a public debate with the politically correct crowd over the word Christmas and related religious expression. Most of us are filled with joy at this time of year and want to celebrate by saying merry Christmas, singing carols, wearing clothing displaying a Christmas message and with a community Christmas tree or nativity display. It seems that many are reacting to the pressure by removing Christmas and religious displays from our view.

We have no need to fear because it is legally okay to say Merry Christmas. It seems that misunderstandings over the origin and meaning of the phrase “separation of church and state” have encouraged a few to embark on a mission to remove all references to religion from schools, government buildings, public property and even attempt to change the public lexicon.

The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution. It originated in 1802 in a private letter from Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptist ministers in Danbury, Connecticut – 13 years after the First Amendment was passed. Courts have consistently ruled since then that eliminating all signs of religion from the public square is just as unconstitutional as establishing a religion.

In response to recent efforts to censor Christmas in our country, it might help to clarify the forms of religious expression that are legal under the Constitution in case law.

1. Students are free to express their religious beliefs in school. As long as it’s not materially disruptive, students may express their beliefs verbally with phrases such as “Merry Christmas”; through clothing that conveys religious messages with words, colors, or symbols; or through written materials like school assignments, religious cards, gifts, or tracts given to teachers and classmates (Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 [1938]; Westfield High School L .I. F. E. Club v. City of Westfield, 249 F. Supp.2d 98 [D. Mass. 2003].

2. At school, students can sing Christmas carols at concerts, teach the biblical origins of Christmas, and perform the Christmas story of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the shepherds. The Constitution does not require the exclusion of religion from public institutions. Christmas is part of our heritage and ingrained in our culture; therefore, expression of it through art and music and teaching of it as history serve both a religious and secular purpose. Provided these activities promote the “advancement of the students’ knowledge of our society’s cultural and religious heritage; an opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry, and drama that is likely to be of interest to the students and their audience,” any of these activities can be conducted in public schools without creating an Establishment Clause problem (Flory v. Sioux Falls School District, 619 F. 2d 1311 [6th Cir. 1980]; Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S.39 [1980].

3. Nativity displays can be placed in schools, parks, and government buildings. No Supreme Court decision has ever forbidden a private citizen from setting up a nativity display in a public park, as parks, streets, and sidewalks are all public forums traditionally devoted to “assembly and debate.” Such displays may also be placed in public buildings provided the government has opened the property for expressive activity. The Free Exercise Clause assures religious speakers the same access to public forums given to secular speakers (Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. City of Grand Rapids, 980 F. 2d1538 [1992]. Nor can private citizens be forced to include objects such as snowmen in their faith-based displays (West Virginia v. Burnette, 319 U. S. 624, [1943].

Furthermore, even under current decisions, city governments may include a nativity in a seasonal display provided 1) there are a sufficient number of secular objects along with religious ones, 2) the secular objects are in a close proximity to the religious ones, and 3) overall, the display is sufficiently secular (Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668,671 [1984].

The U. S. Constitution, laws and court decisions are all constructed to protect and permit religious expression in both public schools and government buildings. Attempts to remove Christ from Christmas do not stem from the Constitution, but from those who simply seek to silence the Christian message. That very act is a violation of the Constitution.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and for this opportunity to clarify the legal position on keeping Christmas and many other forms of religious expression a vital part of our community.

Merry Christmas and my best wishes for a joyous New Year.


Susan Lynn
State Representative
57th District, Tennessee
www.repsusanlynn.com

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank You and a Perspective on the Elections

Dear Friends,

I have so much to thank you for that it is difficult to know where to start.

Thank you, first and foremost, for the privilege of representing you for two more years in the Tennessee General Assembly. It is challenging, thrilling, a great responsibility, a great honor, and at times, so humbling, I truly feel unworthy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As always, you know that you can speak to me anytime about an issue. You always have my confidentiality and, I will always work as hard as I can to help you.

Thank you to so many who volunteered for the GOTV phone calls and voter ID phone calls. Your efforts made a huge difference in Wilson County - Bob Corker received a wide, wide margin of the vote, we maintained the state Senate, the marriage amendment passed and, to my great surprise, I received the second highest number of votes out of all House races in the state of Tennessee - THANK YOU!

Thank you for not becoming annoyed with all of the election emails. Your patience is appreciated!!!

Now, a little perspective on what happened in the state House, Senate and U.S. Senate on election night.

Prior to the election, some of the House Democrats were openly stating that not only would the Republican House members not win any additional seats but that the Democrats would win back several of our current House seats.

Indeed, things did not look good for TN House Republicans. Two weeks prior to the election, polling showed at least four of our Republican members would lose their seats - this was a shock to us!! One week later, several more of our incumbents were in trouble! However, last minute efforts, some changes on the national scene and a change in direction in the US Senate race turned the day around.

In the end, the Tennessee House Republicans maintained all of our incumbent seats - we didn't pick up any seats but we didn't lose one member!

In addition, although we lost a seat in the state Senate, we maintained the Senate by re-electing Senator Beavers in Wilson County - thanks to you!!

Third, Bob Corker, Senator Bob Corker now, won a very hard fought race against Harold Ford jr.!!!

Forth, the marriage amendment passed overwhelmingly!!!!

So actually, it is the Tennessee Democrats who had a very bad night on Tuesday. In spite of the poor national climate for Republicans, they couldn't unseat one Republican House member, they missed getting back the state Senate, they lost the US Senate seat they were seeking - where nationally, Democrats won a lot of US Senate seats. And Tennesseans expressed what I believed all along was their true belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman!

Even though Democrats drifted to the right to try to win - they just couldn't get the job done in Tennessee!

Most sincerely,

Susan

Susan Lynn
State Representative 57th District

215 War Memorial Building Nashville, Tennessee 37243

Tel - 615-741-7462
Cell – 615-596-2363

www.repsusanlynn.com