Petition for referendum puts citizen, not grandees, in charge

Signs that drew notice to an activist's cause rest in front of a warm fireplace. Mild temps Saturday will make pro-family efforts for a Chattanooga petition easier.

A signature gatherer’s signs get a break. Mild temps Saturday will make pro-family efforts for a Chattanooga petition easier.

By David Tulis

The self-styled “citizens’ petition to protest the passage of the ‘domestic partnership’ ordinance tells of the downward shift of political power down toward commoners, even as in a more short-term historical perspective the rise of the nation-state has turned citizens generally into wards and infants.

The effort in Chattanooga to gain 6,000 signatures in a two-week period reflects a long-time trend that started at the time of Christ, that of the overturning of empires and the elevation of the common, the poor and the ordinary. Christianity, the source of the petition, established a reversal of the absolutism under monarchs and tribes up until that time. Christianity elevates Israelite midwives by naming them while not reporting the name of the pharaoh — it elevates prophets as against kings, latter sons over first-borns, and establishes the Son of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, born in the line of David to a poor carpenter.

The petition seeks to overturn a vote in city council in which the city creates civil unions among homosexuals, lesbians and man-woman partnerships in cohabitation and non-platonic living. The petition, recognizing democratic ideals in the American system, places the chiefs in a tender spot. Council members such as Jerry Mitchell, who equates anal sex between two men equal to the tender and possibly fruitful embraces of a man and his wife, face the prospect of their rule being overruled. They face the prospect of their pretense to representing the people’s interests and rights being dubbed inaccurate.

Mark West, an organizer of the effort, says that activists Friday garnered 1,133 names for a total at about 3,500.  “We ended up with *** more than we could have hoped for. The Lord was good.” The election commission requires 4,500 names to certify putting the measure before the voters.

A building momentum is still hidden among church people, who are passing petitions among Sunday school groups and in church hallways after service. These groups will be turning in petitions to Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency on Sunday and Monday. All signed forms are required to be turned in to Mr. West by early Tuesday afternoon for delivery to the Hamilton County election commission.

A proud moment for city?

The city council vote is a bit of municipal hubris. It has no legal authority to establish domestic partnerships under the limited authority granted by its state charter. It is not free to innovate at law, or to establish novelties such as civil unions, which are reserved for the general assembly. For Jerry Mitchell, the swing vote, and the other four members who voted yes, the vote is an attack on family and marriage because it equates homosexual unions to marriage and brings the marital union down to the level of cheap cohabitation without promise. It is anti-female because it encourages men to use women for their own ends. It is anti-capital because it esteems nonfruitful, sterile homosexual unions incapable of producing heirs. It attacks Christianity because it spites God, who declares that the sexual design in human nature be governed with an eye toward purity, commitment, joy and relationship until death — and image of Christ and the church.

The offense against the plain teaching of Christianity in favor of chastity, marriage, continency and self-government is rejected by the council, which is wiser than the teaching of scripture and believes men and women can remake themselves and the world as it suits them. That two members voting for the move — Moses Freeman and Yusuf Hakeem — are practicing Christians reveals the extent of antinomianism (anti-law) in the American church.

Now to the question of decentralization and people power implied in the authority of the people to recall elected officials (Mayor Ron Littlefield was targeted in 2010) and overturn ordinances.

Because Christianity envisions the success of the gospel through history, it also posits an end to history and to a culminating point. Implied in the idea of history coming to an end is that of progress, which is measured by the increasing vitality of biblical ideas and living. The rise of the nation-state as a form of civil government in the 1600s may be proven just a setback in the overall trend toward more internal government, less external, more self-government and less control by force imposed by others (statism, despotisms). Isaiah promises that of the increase of God’s government there shall be no end, and the apostles are given a great commission to bring the nations to the Lord Jesus, the King of kings.

Petition’s time running out

About half of the people with whom I spoke Friday in my canvassing duties were willing to sign the petition. Many who live outside the city indicated they would have liked to have signed it. But only city residents may do so, and only if they are registered voters.

Signers of the document are not, by inking their names and address, declaring a position. They are saying they want the vote by city council to be ratified by the voters, or overturned. But, practically, signers generally favor marriage and traditional ideas about family; those who refuse side with gays and want the council’s ordinance to stand unmolested. Petitioners may suggest, if facing critics, that the referendum serves both sides of the issue. If homosexuality is accurately represented by the council vote, the referendum will merely amplify and affirm the ordinance, with little danger of overturning it.

Among the churches active in signing up Christians to demand a fresh look at homosexual partner benefits is Hawkinsville Missionary Baptist Church in East Brainerd. I met Friday Patrick Hampton, the son of its minister, Dr. Bobby L. Hampton. He is married and the father of three. Another church concerned about the gay program put a copy of the petition form into a bulletin used for worship services and asked members to return with them filled with names of friends and registered-to-vote neighbors.

The effort is intensifying Saturday and Sunday. Activists are canvassing neighborhoods. Others will be seeking signatures in parts of town not under the domination of giant out-of-town corporations that either favor “diversity” or forbid soliciting on their property.

For a copy of the petition to take to friends or Christians on the Lord’s Day, go to

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