Sumner County Mayor Holt Calls Conservative Group ‘Radical,’ Bans Meetings in County Building


Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt referred to a conservative-minded group as “radical,” and forbid any future meetings of the group from being held in a county building.

The “radical” group that Holt called out is the Sumner County Republican Assembly (SCRA), a chapter of the Tennessee Republican Assembly.

The building that Holt banned the SCRA from using is the New Shackle Island Community Center. Construction of the facility was funded from Sumner County’s 2008-2009 budget with $700,000 of taxpayer dollars for use as a community center, ambulance station and fire hall.

The SCRA says that, unlike the state GOP that “cares more about the number of people who join the party, the SCRA is “focused more on the quality of Republican.”

As such, the SCRA is “focused on moving the Republican party back to being conservative” and uses a strict vetting and re-vetting process for their members.

The SCRA’s stated mission:  “To be a conservative Republican organization devoted to expanding the principles of liberty and conservatism by holding our elected officials accountable and by recruiting and supporting candidates for local political offices.”

The SCRA’s parent organization – the Tennessee Republican Assembly – is part of a nationwide movement of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies to lead the Republican Party back to the principles of America’s Founding Fathers.

The SCRA was founded in August 2018, according to Chairman Kurt Riley, and has met monthly since that time at Sumner County’s New Shackle Island Community Center.

The facility, with its meeting room and large bay area for the fire and rescue vehicles, has hosted a number and wide variety of political and non-political events over the years.

Last week, Riley was advised by Shackle Island Fire Chief Marty Bowers that the SCRA can no longer lease or use the facility, per the direct orders of Mayor Holt who views such groups as “radical.”

Riley has retained Kirk Clements, founder and chief counsel of the non-profit, public-interest law firm Sovereignty Legal Foundation, in the case.

Clements sent a letter dated Friday, September 11 to Sumner County Law Director Leah Dennen.

The stated purpose of Clements’ letter is to to “respectfully request that Holt rescind his unlawful fiat and allow the SCRA,” which is scheduled to hold its next regularly scheduled meeting September 19, to continue to use the community center, “without further interruption or harassment.”

In addition to reminding the county law director, “[i]t is axiomatic that government entity cannot preclude the use of a public forum to any individual or organization based on political views or similar First Amendment protected speech without a compelling governmental interest,” Clements points out in his letter that “Holt’s designation of the SCRA as ‘radical’ can only be construed to mean he does not approve of their political positions or views.”

Clements goes on to recognize that Holt’s disdain for a conservative group such as the SCRA is not surprising given his big government positions.

However, Clements finds it “stunning” that Holt is “attempting to use county property in a clear abuse of power to silence those with which he does not agree.”

If Holt persists in his position of banning the group from meeting in county space, Clements advises that Holt unwittingly exposes himself to personal liability.

When a government official violates a clearly established right, says Clements, they are not entitled to qualified government immunity.

To substantiate the point, Clements quotes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit opinion in Habel v. Twp. of Macomb: “Qualified immunity protects government officials performing discretionary insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”

Clements concluded by expressing hope that Holt will promptly comply with the request, so that litigation and the associated unnecessary costs to taxpayers can be avoided.

At the time of publication deadline, Clements had not received a response from the Sumner County Law Director or Holt.

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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.







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16 Thoughts to “Sumner County Mayor Holt Calls Conservative Group ‘Radical,’ Bans Meetings in County Building”

  1. Sirfurr

    TN Star have you reached out to Holt for comment or verified with the county that your facts are accurate. I didn’t see anything to support this as accurate. I would like to have more concrete fact. From what you have written Holt should account for this but without anything from the other side it is difficult to make informed decisions.

  2. lb

    We just moved 1 mile into Sumner Co to escape Davidson and the obsessed Tyrant MiniCooper. Now it seems like Holt is aspiring to be the same type of disingenuous, phony, incompetent, unlikable type of Politician.
    Time to get rid of this guy. We looked into all the local Pols and were astonished that THIS GUY was actually in the position he holds.
    Cant wait to Vote AGAINST him.

  3. 83ragtop50

    I have suffered under Comrade Holt’s big government tax and spend reign. He sneaks around and makes deals and surprises the county citizens with all kinds of unneeded and unwanted deals. And the county commissioners just fall in line like toads. He was challenged in the his last election and did not win by that much of a margin. I am very hopeful that he and a bunch of his out of control commissioner buddies get thrown out ion their ears in the next election.

    My property taxes have increased by approximately 50% in the last 6 years under his reign. Enough is enough.

    He may call himself a Republican but his behavior proves that that claim is false.

  4. BC

    Remember more Sumner County voters voted for some else beside Holt in the last election. We need a conservative to run next election cycle.

  5. Mm

    The people of Sumner County should be angry that Holt has caused a lawsuit that they will have to pay for.

  6. Beatrice Shaw

    For everyone’s information….Holt is a REPUBLICAN!! There is nothing leftist about a Republican. You should also at least show respect for Mayor Cooper of Nashville. His family seems to have a well earned and distinguished political pedigree.

    1. Family pedigrees are irrelevant. You judge each person individually. Otherwise, you have the never-ending stream of Kennedys, Bushes, Clintons and heaven forbid, Obamas. And if Trump Jr. were to decide to run down the road, I’d be curious how you’d view that. No free passes – for anyone.

    2. Julie

      Bea, it is called a RINO. And I am more concerned with the actions of politicians not their pedigree.

    3. Donald Clark

      Your debate point is weak. What do any of your statements have to do with Holt’s total abuse of power? Party affiliation means nothing. If he is so Republican, why is he attempting to shut down other Republicans who vet their folks to ensure they aren’t getting infiltrated like we should have done with mayor Cooper???

    4. Alex Otto

      If that’s so, tell me why is there a leftist in the GOP nomination for sheriff in New Hampshire?

      Also, I won’t respect a politician that has a vendetta against any group or business line like Holt has for the Republican Assembly or Mayor Cooper has for our bar owners and small businesses down on Broadway!

    5. Dean Hibbs

      He is a Republican by name only. He has shown his contempt for the taxpayers of this county many times. He has now directed the sewer for the school by taking our private property to his commercial property for his financial gain! That’s worth investigating!

    6. S K

      Apparently you don’t live in Nashville. His pedigree wouldn’t get him into a county fair dog show much less politics. As for holt doesn’t sound like he is far behind.

  7. John J.

    This is tyranny! Democrat politicians, like Anthony Holt and John Cooper, think that they can do whatever they want. They think that they are morally and intellectually superior to us mere citizens. Rise up Tennesseans, and throw off these chains of governmental overreach!

  8. Julie

    Holt needs to explain publicly what makes the SCRA radical but he wont because he can’t. Expect more of this type of thing if Biden wins the presidency, the Democrats have been wanting to lock out Republicans for quite some time.

  9. Rick

    Holt is a Commiecrat that should to be removed. What an arrogant embarrassment. These little jerks like Holt and Cooper want no questioning of what they are doing. In Holts
    case Sumner County has the best mayor and government money can buy! .

  10. Ned T.

    The gall of these leftist politicians is appalling. Sue now, and sue Holt individually. Where do we contribute to the cause?