Sen. Bill Ketron lives in Murfreesboro where local sentiment boiled up against construction of an Islamic Center that's to include recreational facilities as well as a worship hall. Out of concern that such a building might become an incubator for terrorists, Ketron introduced what he calls the Material Support bill.
At the crux of his concern is that Muslims might follow Sharia law - seeing it as superior to state and federal criminal law. Freedom of religion shouldn't protect that, he explained last Thursday night in the Lewisburg Recreation Center. His proposed law would prevent material support - money, property or other things of value - from being available to people or groups that are found to be a threat.
"I need your help on this bill," Ketron said. "There's been huge push back.
"But I'm tired of being politically correct," he said. "There is no prosperity without security.
"It's going to take a lot to get this passed," Ketron said.
Capital Security in Nashville has advised him to change his commuting route and times so as to reduce whatever risks he might face, Ketron said, indicating that's a result of his high profile when promoting the Material Support Bill.
It's written to "go after home-grown terrorists," the Murfreesboro Republican said.
He told of a college student in Tennessee who went to Yemen, "became radicalized and then went to a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., and shot one soldier and fatally wounded another."
The man's father told Congress that the man who shot those soldiers was not his son; "'My son was radicalized,'" Ketron said, quoting the father.
News coverage preceded refinements to Ketron's bill, but since then it's been rewritten to be constitutional, he said.
"This bill ... draws a ring of fire around terrorist organizations," Ketron said.
It's not aimed at Muslims, he said. Nor is it aimed at Muslim organizations. It could apply to Nazi groups.
It's to empower local police so they may receive information that they would pass on to statewide officials and pass it along to national defense groups.
Local law enforcement agencies should be involved because the FBI won't get involved unless there's an interstate aspect of the case, he said.
"If passed," Ketron said, "it will be the first of its kind."
State House Speaker Beth Harwell also spoke to Marshall County Republicans on Thursday, saying that the GOP in Tennessee "has become great because we have people like Billy Spivey" the former county commission chairman who lost in his bid for a seat in the House. He's now the county GOP chairman.
Harwell lost her first race, she said.
Recent achievements by the party, such as controlling the House, Senate and having a Republican governor, have been coming for decades, she said. It didn't just happen last year.
However, "With that comes an awesome responsibility," Harwell said, encouraging fellow Republicans in elected offices to "govern with humility."