I’ve enjoyed politics since I was in grade school — I think it was that 5th grade paper on the presidents that did it for me — so this time of year is always interesting. I love to watch the political commercials, read the web updates and so on.
Yet since losing the race for Student Government President in 1971, I haven’t been tempted to run for office. (Although that race was in Florida, and I seem to recall some ballot discrepancies, but I didn’t push it.)
Nevertheless, I was surprised to find out the other day that I am not eligible to run for the state legislature in Tennessee. It’s not because I’m too young (I wish!) or too dumb (clearly that has never been a prohibiting factor). No, it’s because I’m a minister.
I discovered there is a provision in Tennessee law that precludes ministers from serving in the legislature because they have a higher calling. It reads: “Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.”
Now I’m not personally offended by this law. I’ve not been tempted to run for the legislature, since my mother always warned me not to hang around with the wrong crowd. Nevertheless, it does seem odd, which apparently makes it par for the course in the statute books.
There’s a web site (http://www.dumblaws.com) that details some of the more unusual laws. For example, here in Tennessee, it is illegal to dare a child to purchase a beer. It is also illegal to bring a skunk into the state, perhaps because they are notorious for daring children to adopt bad habits.
It is illegal here in Tennessee to shoot any game other than whales from a moving vehicle. Perhaps the esteemed members of the legislature have some information unknown to the rest of us, but I’m pretty sure Tennessee doesn’t have any ocean frontage. So unless we’re planning on annexing North Carolina, it seems like a fairly useless piece of legislation.
On the positive side, there’s also a law that can save us all a lot of work. A provision in the state constitution says, “No person shall in time of peace be required to perform any service to the public on any day set apart by his religion as a day of rest.” Which means, I assume, that they can’t legally make you preach on Sunday. So take that, deacons!
In Nashville, it is illegal to have a cheetah as a pet, or for a rollerblader to tie him or herself to a moving vehicle. Another way of stating these laws might be: it’s illegal to be a blithering idiot. (Oops, but then it might wipe out the state legislature.)
But then, that’s nothing compared to the laws over in Memphis, where it is illegal to give any pie to fellow diners. It is also illegal to take unfinished pie home. All pie must be eaten on the premises. It is also illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians. Apparently this is to discourage women from driving, and to keep them at home making pies. (While being sure to eat them on the premises.)
It does seem that lawmakers could use some help. Maybe with the addition of a few ministers?

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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