What County Clerk Bill Knowles Should Have Said - And Response (7)

  • Saturday, June 27, 2015
  • David Tulis
Had God ordained county clerk Bill Knowles to be a man of Christian conviction and constitutional courage, He would have fortified Mr. Knowles' spirit and given him boldness to publish Friday a news release such as this one:

My defense of office in upholding state law

My oath of office forbids me to license two men to marry, or two women to marry each other, or to record any such union, for such would be perjury. My fear of God in my oath forbids me to offend Him or the people of the county whom I represent.

I swear as your clerk to uphold our Tennessee constitution and all state laws, our covenant documents. These declare marriage as between one man and one woman. In having amended our constitution in 2006, the people and their government declare as true, fitting and good that provision for mankind God has given us in His revealed will — namely that of marriage.

You ask how I dare today contradict the federal supreme court in Washington. I have a duty to interpret the constitution and to abide by it — as do those judges. My oath is more compelling to me than their opinion and the opinions of gay activists who have taken paperwork from the high court, presented it to me and demanded that I violate my public trust and redefine marriage in our county. It is said supreme court rulings become law. Maybe. In the republic in which I grew up, law comes from congresses and general assemblies. Judges opine; assemblies legislate.

My oath to uphold our constitution binds my hands as well as my conscience; it binds my office and all the wonderful people who work under me in the clerk’s office. My duty is clear, despite what important people say about gay rights and the redefinition of marriage. I joyfully affirm that marriage is as God declares it. I earnestly refuse to double cross my oath.

Perjury is a crime. Perjury is the declaring as true something that I know to be false. I am confident that if I record anything as true that I know to be false, I am a perjurer and have violated our law. I refuse to put myself in that position, having been elected by members of the public. You place your confidence in me to uphold the law and record only true facts, whether car certificates of title or marriages.

I refuse to marry so-called gay couples because that would be licensing and recording a blatant lie. That would jeopardize not only the people involved, who want official affirmation of intended sinful acts, but would also jeopardize me, the clerk, who enables them to receive this recognition as being married. Of course, I refuse to suborn perjury from my staff.

I serve as clerk with a clear conscience, even though sometimes my range of duties include tasks that make me uncomfortable. For example, I think liquor is a ruin of many families and an evil temptation. But I license liquor stores as part of my job, realizing that alcohol is a legal substance and my office is greater than my person or personal beliefs.

But I refuse to marry gay couples because I don’t want to get out ahead of the people. If Tennesseans think a federal appeals court opinion is law, let them amend the constitution and eliminate the Tennessee Code Annotated statute that so offends our gay friends. I decline, out of respect to members of the public, to leap out ahead of them and change a state law all by myself. I refuse, out of love for the people who take the trouble to vote, to delete by fiat these honorable provisions of state law. I think they would be wrong to undo our marriage laws. But it is their prerogative, and I await their verdict at the ballot box. My action today intends no unkindness to anyone; my impulse is wholly democratic.

As your county clerk, I stand here, free in my conscience, but starkly alone in this office. You, as I, find these times bewildering. I have agonized over our country’s moral decay and its acceptance of perversion and idolatry.

Today I ask the support of the people of our county, and the protection of Sheriff Jim Hammond, of my office against any who would attempt to interfere with me and my dedicated staff. Yes, peril is all about, and the days surely look dark.

Perhaps the people of this county want me to ignore my oath and ignore my duty — and to help redefine marriage. But unless I am convinced by a change in our law and by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded that my conscience is no longer bound by my vows of office to our constitution, unless I can be convinced that it is safe for a Christian to act against his conscience, here I stand — if alone, so be it. I can do nothing else; may God help me.

(David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com 1 to 3 weekdays at AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.)

* * *

I am appalled by the “opinion” of David Tulis as it appears in this morning’s column. He is demeaning the value and character of one of the finest public servants this county has ever had. He would have us believe that Mr. Knowles' integrity would be better served if he had said he didn’t care what the Supreme Court of the United States of America believes, I’ll roll with my own opinion.

Mr. Tulis, I have known Mr. Knowles for many years and I can tell you that if the state of Tennessee told him it was his duty to issue license plates to UFO’s, he would comply because that is what he has pledged to do. When someone is elected to the position of County Court Clerk, they are bound by the scope of their office, not their opinion.

I usually enjoy reading your opinion post Mr. Tulis, but apparently someone has subjected you to a “super wedgie” this morning and you want to take your feeling out on a fine man. Not only did God ordain County Clerk Bill Knowles to be a man of Christian conviction and constitutional courage, Mr. Knowles lives that conviction and courage every day.

I do respect your right to your opinion about the SCOTUS decision, but I don’t respect your attack on Bill Knowles in order make known your own agenda. I think the courageous thing for you to do now is to offer an apology to Bill Knowles.

J. Pat Williams

* * *

This is an excellent example of why a man like Mr. Knowles holds his position and why Mr. Tulis holds his.

Will Taylor

* * *

What a complete bunch of hokum, including your plagiarism of Martin Luther at the end of  this buffoonery.
All the Supreme Court did was affirm, for anyone who can read, a clear and authentic expression of the Christian Gospel - the right to live in covenanted, monogamous relationships. Bill Knowles is to be commended for following suit.
The only people to get heartburn over the Supreme Court upholding the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution will undoubtedly be Hamilton County's ubiquitous klan of Tea People, a group who, quite frankly, haven't gotten over school desegregation over half a century ago. Segregation that they also perverted the Bible to defend.
Lonnie Hatmaker
* * *

Mr. Tulis rarely ceases to amaze and annoy with his off-base diatribes, but this one reaches a new level of unmitigated arrogance. How dare he or anyone else dare put words in the mouth of Mr. Knowles?

Instead of wishing a trusted county official could have been fortified in spirit, Mr. Tulls should hope to gain the fortitude to hold his peace about matters that do not pertain to him - no matter the current volume of his protestations.

Kelly A. Martin 

* * *

The more-zeal-than-insight fringe on the extreme ends of any issue serves to hold a healthy tension for the majority connected to reality in the middle. Mr. Tulis does an excellent job of playing such a fringe role.

I notice the razor thin standard with which he judges Mr. Knowles' godly authenticity and conviction, as if Knowles doesn't make the spiritual cut unless he says "something like" Tulis would have said if fantasies came true and Tulis was an actual leader. (Mr. Tulis, you may not realize this, but you came across as judgmental and arrogant.)

Mr. Knowles is not a Johnny-come-lately whose character must be proven. He's a fixture in local government because his integrity and leadership earns him repeat trips to the Clerk's office. He's not County Clerk by accident, and the electorate has not fallen asleep at the ballot box. He's a great leader with an A+ track record, and Hamilton Countians know it.

Knowles is a steady example of what it means to serve a community and not play political games to plot his next rung up the election ladder.

Mr. Tulis, Hamilton County values forgiveness if you want take a run at an apology.

Rob Smith


* * *

Bill Knowles is a man of integrity, built from a mold and fabric reserved for special people.  I learned that about him through my years of friendship and admiration of him at Central High School and our graduating class of 351 outstanding seniors many good years ago.  He has been a blessing to this City and County and those of us who have followed his career for over half a century.
God bless you, Bill, as you apply your extensive experience and abilities in implementing the requirements of our changing laws almost daily being forced upon us.  I hope that same God will grant me the grace to do likewise with professionalism and dedication such as you exhibit every day.
Charlotte Parton

* * *

I hope by responding to your Knowles vendetta I am not in any way implying it has any significance at all. It's laughable, yet I'm not laughing.

I have lived in many states in my lifetime, and many more counties. Just by the nature of government that means frequent contact with county clerk offices.

Never, ever, have I experienced the kind of efficiency, economy, professionalism and respect for patrons that I've found here in Hamilton County. And that comes from the top.

Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But I would think you should be embarrassed by your flawed facts, lack of knowledge, misinterpretations and bigoted point of view. All it accomplished was to leave me speechless.

Well, almost.

Marv Glaser

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