Anti-abortion constitutional amendment invocation

Clifton Fox Minister's prayed for the "innocent babies and innocent mothers"

An effort to restrict abortion rights by amending the Tennessee Constitution unanimously cleared a key Senate committee and debated by the full Senate was held.

In the state Senate session, Clifton Fox of the Etowah Church of Christ prayed for the ''innocent babies and innocent mothers'' within minutes of debate starting on a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment. The amendment would specify that the state constitution does not guarantee or protect abortion.

In his official invocation, Fox prayed that senators be protected from ''civil liberty lawyers and lobbyists against life.'' It is customary for the Senate to open each session with a prayer given by a minister of the day.

''We don't expect invocations to be turned into clergy lobbying on the floor of the Senate chamber,'' Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said. ''It was quite disturbing that a clergy member would attack citizens of Tennessee, be they ACLU lawyers or others fighting to protect women's rights.''

Fox was invited by Sen. Jeff Miller, R-Cleveland, who supported the amendment. The proposal was discussed Monday, and efforts were blocked to add exceptions. On Thursday, some senators reversed course, and exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother were added. That prompted the sponsor of the proposed amendment to shelve the issue.

Miller said he did not set up Fox for the moment and is not responsible for his prayer.
''I'm not going to discount the feelings of people who were offended, but I make no apologies for his prayer,'' Miller said.

Miller said Fox's prayer is typical of those in his East Tennessee district.
''If you went to most any Protestant church in my area, you'd hear a prayer similar to that. We weren't in church, but he felt led to give that prayer,'' Miller said.
The senator said he felt uncomfortable when some ministers gave prayers with a pro-income tax slant during the tax debate in 1999-2002.

''I felt uncomfortable with those, so I can understand the feelings of those who felt uncomfortable'' with Fox's message, Miller said.

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