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An ethics complaint targeting a Nashville official over her vote against adding transgender procedures to city health insurance coverage is a “blatant attack” on the First Amendment, according to several faith-based Tennessee policy organizations.
Nashville’s electric vehicle coordinator and Metro Benefits Board member Edna Jones is facing an ethics complaint over her vote against expanding the city’s health care coverage. The complaint was filed by activist Maryam Abolfazli, who is the chair of the city’s Human Relations Commission.
“My God does not make mistakes,” Jones reportedly said during debate on the issue in June. “He creates each of us as he chooses. I will vote no. Thank you.”
“Ms. Jones’s comment clearly discloses what influenced her vote — her religious faith in what she named as ‘my God,’” the complaint says. “Citing one’s religious faith as the determining factor for a board member’s vote shows improper influence on the performance of Ms. Jones’s official duties.”
The complaint has been criticized by policy and advocacy groups who say that sanctioning Jones over her vote after referencing her religious faith would have religious liberty and free speech ramifications.
“Firstly, the Nashville Metro Benefits Board to NOT give insurance coverage for transgender mutilation surgeries on city workers is one of the few things that Metro Nashville government has done recently that we agree with. Taxpayer funds have no business being used to cover transgender mutilation surgeries,” Aaron Gulbransen, the executive director of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in a statement given to The Daily Wire.
“Secondly, with regards to the sour grapes complaint, it is extremely disgusting to attack a board member’s vote on the basis of her faith. Furthermore, it is a blatant attack on the board member’s 1st Amendment free speech and freedom of religion rights. We hope that the ethics board considering the complaint understands and respects those two facts — and reacts accordingly. If they don’t, they would be trampling on the Constitution,” he added.
When asked by The Daily Wire if Jones should have been allowed to say what she did under the First Amendment, Abolfazli said that she didn’t know, but that it was a “valid” question. She said that determination would be made by the ethics board and not her.
Former Tennessee state Senator David Fowler and current president of the Family Action Council Tennessee (FACT) said that Abolfazli’s complaint was actually an example of discrimination.
“It is tragic when the chair of Davidson County’s Human Relations Commission demonstrates an inability to think clearly about human relations and specifically the religious matter about which she complains, a member of the Nashville benefits board referencing God in making a decision. She fails to understand that every decision every person makes rests, in principle, on some belief about God — whether God exists and, if so, what the relationship between God and the social order and law is,” he said in a statement to The Daily Wire. “Her views about God inform her understanding of what discrimination is, yet she complains about that of another. That is discrimination.”
Jones said she was unable to comment on the complaint due to the ongoing investigation, which should be concluded later this month.