Tennessee GOP Rep. to Teacher: “Stupidity Can Get You Killed”

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

We’ve done a fair bit of reporting now on the push, in Tennessee and other states, to essentially criminalize certain aspects of the Islamic faith. Two dozen states have now considered proposals to block judges from forcing Islamic Sharia law on God-fearing citizens, but no proposal is more extreme than Tennessee’s. As originally written, the bill classified Islamic law as treasonous, and made material support for Islam (a loosely defined phrasing that could have potentially applied to charitable donations to mosques) a felony.

It’s since been modified, and its supporters say it doesn’t specifically target Islam. Well, except for the parts that do target Islam. Last week, the Tennessean published a few excerpts from a fascinating exchange between Aaron Nuell, a teacher in Murfreesboro, and GOP State Rep. Rick Womick, an avid supporter of the legislation. In an email to Nuell, Womick consistently refers to Muslims as “them,” and openly wonders whether Muslims who opposed the legislation are genuinely opposed to terrorism. I contacted Nuell to see if he could send the full correspondence and he obliged. (Read it below the fold.)

Nuell emailed Womick last Wednesday, after reading a report about the lawmaker’s confrontation with a Muslim-American who had testified against the bill (and whose mosque had been attacked by arsonists three years earlier). Here’s their full exchange (typos, etc. in the original):

Subject: A quick note…

Please stop attacking your Muslim constituents. Some live in  your district, and you were elected to represent them, too. You don’t get to pick who you represent; in contrast, you chose to represent a diverse community. Your behavior is extreme and your questioning is in bad faith.

Mr. Aaron Nuell
Murfreesboro, TN

Womick responded later that night:

Dear Mr. Nuell:

I repectfully and politely sat and listened yesterday, to four individuals, one of which was Mr. Abudiab, publicly accuse me and my fellow legislators of denying them their Constitutional rights, infaming intolerance, false accusations, being hate mongerers, being racists, and being white supremicist like that of the KKK.

And you write me to scold me because I dare speak up and defend my character and confront a political-militaristic-religion responsible for 10 out of the last 11 terrorist attack on Americans?   Attacks that have killed over 3400 U.S. citizens!  

Well sir, get used to it.  My duty is to the citizens of Tennessee and our Constitution.  Not to those who want to usurp it and live under Sharia Law.

My intent is not to deny any Muslim the freedom to worship; that is their First Amendment right.  But I will not cower to their demands to implement Sharia Law over U.S. Constitutional Law.  All this legislation does is adopt CUURENT FEDERAL TERRORISM LAWS and allows local and state law enforcement agencies to enforce those federal laws. So if their intent is to live peacfully within our laws, why are they opposed to this legislation?

I have been studying Islam for over nine years now.  Maybe you should take the time to study Islam and the Law that governs them…Sharia Law…before you turn a blind eye and accuse others of intolerance.   Ignorance is bliss, and stupidity can get you killed.  I suggest you educate yourself on both sides of the issue.

Though we are at opposite ends of the spectrum, I do appreciate  and respect your opinion and comment.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


And Nuell’s closing shot:

Mr. Womick,

Thank for writing me back, however I feel the need to write a response. First, as a Jew, I would be quite upset – vocally so – if my legislators accused me and those of my faith of wanting to overthrow/usurp the Constitution of our great land. Do not claim that their anger is misplaced, as you act as their government as you speak out against them.

I was raised a faithful Jew by a prominent Jewish father, and I now have a devout Muslims roommate with no issues/problems/terrorism/constitution-usurping in my household. He wakes up at 5AM to pray (before going back to sleep), and I want you to know that he is a moral and righteous person. No alcohol, no funny business. My question is this: Which Muslims are trying to usurp our constitution with Sharia law? Is it the family here in town who a small business selling cars? Is it the man who owns the independent, all-natural grocery store? Tell me who is fighting for this, and I will stand corrected, however if this is just the word-of-mouth from those highly-paid out-of-town Sharia law speakers, then I am forced to conclude that such a statement is based in paranoia and lies. Please, do your duty to defend the constitution and the people of our state, however don’t you assume that because of 9/11, all Muslims are “evil” or are hell-bent on destroying America. Yeah, there are crazies out their, but we’re not going to make this world a better or safer place by becoming extreme ourselves. As a political moderate and an independent voter, I pay close attention to what my government is doing, and I am not afraid to speak our when I see feelings, emotion, and hear-say getting in the way of good government. 

Hope you have a nice day and a pleasant Easter.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend