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Casey at the South Bluffs of Memphis, overlooking

Tom Lee Park, the Memphis Pyramid, and the Mississippi River.

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CASEY ON POLICY

COVID-19

Casey decided to run for Governor because he was convinced that the current Governor was not doing enough to stop the spread of Covid-19.  Casey saw the spread of the delta variant of the virus coming in the first week of August 2021, and he was speaking out as soon as he could to try to get people to take things seriously and to start wearing masks once again.  

Governor Lee’s response to the delta variant has been to let it run its course and to pretend that it isn’t a big deal.  He refused to put common sense practices into effect that would slow the spread of the virus, and he decided to reopen Tennessee schools without offering safety guidelines on how to keep students and teachers safe.  Incredibly, when local school boards across the state began voting to require masks to be worn in their school systems as the virus began to rise in August 2021, Governor Lee issued an executive order making it harder for schools to keep students and teachers from dying.  We now have students on ventilators and teachers who have died from the virus who might have otherwise lived had they not been exposed to the virus in their places of work:  Tennessee’s public schools.

Casey views Governor Lee’s handling of the virus as a case of poor leadership.  Had Casey been Governor he would have been out front leading on the coronavirus rather than letting Tennesseans figure it out for themselves.  Casey would have found a way to open schools safely by implementing some of the same safety requirements that had kept us safe just months beforehand, like masks in schools, promoting safe vaccines to eligible teens, and strategies aimed at limiting student contact outside certain peer groups.  This does not mean that Casey would have “forced” anyone to get vaccinated or to wear a mask.  It simply means he would have been honest with the people of the state about the threat that was coming, and he would have done everything he could to make sure that our state government was taking the virus seriously.  Bill Lee refused to lead when the delta variant was about to hit.  Casey would have led in the crisis even if it meant telling some people things they didn’t want to hear.

 

 

Guns

While Casey is not a “gun guy”, he respects people’s right to own weapons and to defend themselves and their homes.  When Casey becomes Governor, Tennesseans will still have a strong 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  

At the same time, Casey recognizes the need to empower our state’s law enforcement officers to keep our communities safe when they have reason to believe that a person is about to commit a random act of violence such as a mass shooting.  Casey will work with the legislature to insure that we can have laws on the books that enable our police forces to do what’s necessary to stop random killings, while at the same time working to protect the 2nd Amendment.  Casey will not “take away our guns”, but he will make sure that the police never have their hands tied when they know that a threat is imminent.

Casey also knows that while the 2nd Amendment may grant us a right to own guns, it also grants states the right to make sure that people are responsible gun owners.  Under Governor Lee’s oversight, the State of Tennessee abandoned decades old gun laws requiring those who carry a concealed weapon to take a gun safety class.  Under the new law signed by Governor Lee, anyone can carry a concealed weapon, even if they don’t know proper firearm safety protocols.  Many responsible gun owners across the state criticized Governor Lee when this change was made, and for good reason.  When Casey becomes Governor, he will push for a review of this change in the law and others like it that make our communities less safe.  Casey will defend our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but he will insist that those who carry must be knowledgable and responsible in how they go about embracing that right.


 

Abortion

Casey believes that women should never be forced to carry a pregnancy to term if they are the victims of rape, incest, or if a pregnancy puts the woman’s own life at risk.  Because Casey understands the complexity of privacy concerns surrounding these issues, he believes that abortion must always be safe and legal.

As a minister, Casey believes that sometimes bad things happen to people because we live in a world where evil exists.  Casey believes that when a woman is raped or when a teenager is molested, that woman or young girl has suffered an act of evil.  In the case of a woman who is raped or molested where the crime results in a pregnancy, the woman involved must be granted the freedom to choose how to respond to that traumatic evil act, and free to choose whether to carry the pregnancy to term without the government telling her what to do.  

The same goes for a woman who is advised by her physician that her pregnancy is placing her own life in danger.  A variety of medical conditions can occur during pregnancy that may endanger a woman’s life, from things like ectopic pregnancies in which the fetus implants outside the womb to complications arising from pre-existing conditions like diabetes and heart disease. While these complications are statistically rare, they are not unusual in the real world.  It’s not uncommon for physicians to inform women that their pregnancies may put them at significant risk of death or serious injury if they carry a pregnancy to term, and in some cases pregnancy can lead to emergency situations in which the decision must be made of whether to save the life of the fetus or the life of the mother.  

In such cases, Casey believes that the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy should always be made by the woman involved.  A woman should be free to consult with her physician, her partner, and with God, but the final decision should always belong to the woman herself.  The Governor of Tennessee should never be involved in the conversation, and the last thing we need is a situation where medical teams have to make emergency appeals to the Governor to save a woman’s life.  

For these reasons, Casey believes that abortion should always be legal in the case of rape, incest, and situations in which a woman’s life is in jeopardy.  And, because women have a right to privacy when making healthcare decisions, Casey believes that abortion should always be safe and legal.  No woman should have to document her rape or her molestation or her medical condition to attain a state waiver for a surgical abortion because women should always have a right to personal privacy when making healthcare decisions.

People can continue to debate the issue in churches, faith groups, and in families across the state, and the choice that any woman makes in any of the above situations will differ from woman to woman.  Some women will want to carry the pregnancy to term no matter what.  Others will consider all the relevant factors in their specific situation and decide not to continue the pregnancy.  Whichever decision is made, the choice will always belong to the woman involved.   No woman will ever be forced to have an abortion in the State of Tennessee when Casey becomes Governor.  Still, state law should always grant women the freedom to make their own decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy.

TennCare Expansion 

Since 2014 the State of Tennessee has been eligible to receive billions of dollars per year from the federal government that would be earmarked for TennCare expansion.  This money would be used to offer TennCare to the working poor—people who make less than $30,000 a year and whose jobs do not offer health insurance benefits.  There are currently around 380,000 Tennesseans who fit into this group who are going without health insurance.  

For the past seven years, the Tennessee state legislature has chosen not to expand TennCare to these hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, and they’ve done so largely for political reasons.  The law that offers the money to the state was passed by President Obama, and based purely on the legislature’s dislike of former President Obama we have chosen not to give our fellow Tennesseans health insurance that our own federal tax dollars are paying for.  This affects the cost of healthcare for all of us, because all of those uninsured people still use our hospitals and doctor’s offices, but too often they cannot pay for services after services are rendered.  When Casey becomes Governor he will work with the legislature to get TennCare expanded to hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans within the first year of his time in office.

Marijuana Legalization

While Casey himself is not a marijuana user, Casey supports the legalization of marijuana.  He believes that marijuana is a recreational drug not unlike alcohol, and that the risk of marijuana use is comparable to the risk of alcohol use.  

Casey believes that no person should be incarcerated for marijuana possession, and Casey supports expunging the records of past convictions for simple possession.  Legalizing marijuana would also mean that medical marijuana would become legal in the state of Tennessee, providing new treatment for things like chronic pain, epilepsy, and anxiety disorders.  

Casey knows that when marijuana use becomes legal in Tennessee that there will need to be restrictions on use so that those who are opposed to marijuana do not have to be around it.  To this end, Casey is in favor of treating marijuana in a similar fashion to tobacco cigarettes.  Marijuana should never be smoked in a public setting unless a bar or restaurant designates itself as a marijuana friendly establishment (just like with current smoking establishments).  Likewise, no one under the age of 21 should be allowed to use marijuana, just as is the case with alcohol today.  

Similarly, Casey recognizes that once marijuana becomes legal it will need to be subject to consumption laws just like alcohol, so that no one can drive under the influence of the drug without going to jail.  Casey will work to legalize marijuana, but to also make sure that Tennessee adopts safe marijuana use practices on the other side of legalization.

LGBT Issues 

Casey believes that “love is love” and “Y’all means All”.  Casey strongly supports the LGBT community and pledges to include LGBT individuals in his administration once elected Governor.  Casey believes that gay marriage should be legal, and that all LGBT individuals—including transgender people—should enjoy the rights and freedoms that all Americans enjoy.  This includes not being discriminated against in the workplace or in schools.  When Casey becomes Governor, he will work to insure that LGBT individuals are always treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law in the State of Tennessee.
 

 

Public Education

As the son of an elementary school teacher who taught for thirty-eight years, Casey has a special place in his heart for public education.  Casey will always be a friend to public education and to Tennessee teachers.  He firmly believes that funding meant to be allocated to public schools should stay in the public school system rather than being reallocated to charter schools that siphon money away from teacher salaries and public school budgets.

Casey is also a strong supporter of funding for special education.  We live in a time when more and more children suffer from autism and other disabilities that require access to special education in our public schools.  Casey will work with the legislature to address these needs, and to make special education a priority in the State of Tennessee.

On the topic of what should be taught in public schools in regard to history and racism, Casey believes that we should teach truth and facts to our school children.  Sometimes those facts are things that we can all celebrate, like the idea that America is a great place because of the freedoms that we enjoy.  Sometimes the facts of history are things that we cannot celebrate, but should be taught anyway—things like the Native American genocide, the horrors of slavery, and the lasting impact of Jim Crow laws in the United States and in the State of Tennessee.  The metric for whether something should be taught in our schools is not whether we like it, but whether it is a true fact of history.  Our public schools should never shy away from teaching our children difficult truths about things that actually happened to people of color in our nation’s history.

 

Protecting Children From Abuse and Sex Trafficking

Casey is serious about protecting children from abuse, and especially from sexual abuse and human trafficking.  Because of that, Casey will work to adequately fund the Department of Children's Services—the primary agency of Tennessee’s government that deals with child abuse.  DCS has been significantly underfunded and understaffed during Governor Lee’s time in office.  Casey knows that we cannot fight child abuse and sexual predators if we are not giving our DCS workers the tools and staff that they need.  When Casey becomes Governor he will work to make this right immediately within his first hundred days in office, and Casey will be sure to get the legislature to make DCS a priority in the state’s next annual budget.
 

 

Casey’s Personal Statement on Faith and Politics

As a minister who’s running for high office, it goes without saying that many people have questions about what Casey believes.  Here’s a personal statement Casey wrote to address his personal faith and how it influences his stance on politics:

When I think about my faith as a Christian, it’s important to start with the fact that I find meaning and value in the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and that my faith in God guides me as I live my life.  My faith is very important to me, and it’s a huge part of who I am.  What makes me a little different from many Christians, however, is how I understand my faith and how it informs my politics.

Whenever we speak of politics we’re essentially speaking of how society should be structured:  what the laws of the state should look like and how we should set up the government of the state.  In thinking these things through, rather than having a pre-packaged set of beliefs that I adhere to about certain issues, I like to start from a place of thinking about what I understand to be the core things that Jesus himself taught about.  

One of Jesus’s most well known teachings in the Gospels is that we are to love our neighbors.  When Jesus is asked what is the “Greatest Commandment”, he tells us that it is that we should, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  But he doesn’t stop there.  He had been asked what the single greatest Commandment of all was, but in the very next verse he tells the person who asked the question what the second-greatest Commandment was:  “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31)  The idea here is that we can’t love God if we don’t love our fellow human beings (1 John 4: 20). This echoes Jesus’s teaching of the “Golden Rule”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7: 12)  As one of my favorite Gospel songs puts it, “If you don’t love your neighbor, then you don’t love God.”

I understand this basic teaching to be the centerpiece of Christian ethics.  If we are to live like Jesus, we must learn to love others and to live our lives in ways that help others rather than hurting others.  Indeed, Jesus is even more specific about the importance of doing so in yet another notable passage from Scripture in which he says that how we treat others is actually how we treat Jesus himself, and that God will judge us based on how we treat others (Matthew 25: 31-46).  In that passage and elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is also very specific about the idea that we have a special obligation to help and be fair to people who are disadvantaged—people who are poor, people who aren’t popular, and people who society doesn’t treat fairly.

That said, I’ve always felt that being a good Christian basically means living a life where you treat people fairly and do everything that you can to help others, and especially others who genuinely need help.  I would go so far as to say that for me, helping others who are less fortunate or left out in some way is the most important thing that any Christian should be doing.  

That’s why I get confused when I hear about other Christians who think that our politics should work to make life better only for certain people at the expense of others--usually people like themselves, who they see as in a competition with some other group of people.  When I think about how my faith in Jesus informs my politics, the thing that I know is that time and time again on issue after issue, my moral compass always tells me that I want the system to work in a way that everyone is being treated fairly, first, but also in a way that the system works for people who are facing problems rather than making life worse or more complicated for people who are already struggling.

When I become Governor I will use this basic understanding of the Christian faith to guide me in all my decisions.  My faith is central to who I am, and I cannot be myself without being loyal to this understanding of what my faith demands of me:  to live a life of service for others and to do everything I can to make life better for all people rather than just a few folks at the top of the ladder.

However, while this is all very true, it’s also true that I do not intend to force my specific beliefs about religion on people.  For some, mixing religion and politics is a strict no-go.  I share that concern, and that’s why it’s important for me to say plainly that while my faith is a big part of who I am, my opinion is that Tennessee’s laws should be fair to people of all faiths and the boards and agencies of the state government should serve everyone equally and fairly.  That includes people of any faith background and people of no faith background whatsoever.

I understand very well that I am running for Governor of Tennessee, and not for the office of some sort of state-sponsored faith leader.  Because I understand that, neither I as a person nor my campaign will be about forcing religion on anyone.  Instead, I’ll work to make the state government work fairly for all Tennesseans, regardless of creed.  And, it’s important to note that people of all faith backgrounds and of no faith background will be members of my administration.  A person will not have to be a Christian to serve in the government of the State of Tennessee when I become Governor.

As Governor, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that Tennesseans all have access to a level playing field, and that the laws of the state and rules of the government are fair to all people. That’s the best way that I know to put my Christian faith into action, while at the same time honoring and appreciating the separation of Church and State.  I think that’s also the best way to make Tennessee a good place to live for everyone, no matter who they are or what they think about religion.  The goal is to have a state government that works for everyone, not just a particular religion or faith group.


Dr. Casey Nicholson
September 2, 2021