Metro Nashville Council Member Bob Mendes condemned a recently-deceased local faith and community leader in front of his widow and community supporters during the last council meeting. That leader, Louie Johnston Jr., had a resolution drafted in his honor, which the city council deferred indefinitely earlier this month.
Multiple individuals attempted to speak about Johnston – but only one non-council member was able to do so. Mendes cut off the lineup of community members waiting to speak. Mendes asserted that Johnston’s Christian commitment to proclaiming God as the one true God, along with Johnston’s criticisms of the Muslim religion, were the reasons why Johnston shouldn’t be honored.
“I want to tell the viewing audience to make sure everybody understands: so what you just heard was a text to a resolution that got indefinitely deferred at the last council meeting,” said Mendes. “And I pass no judgment – but if you Google him, you find that he’s written [that] only Muslims commit terrorist acts, and called Islam a false religion, [with a] false god, [and] with a false prophet. And that’s why it got indefinitely deferred at the last meeting.”
Community members responded immediately to express their disgust with Mendes’ remarks. Enough flak came from the community that Councilman Steve Glover – who’d been absent from the meeting due to an illness – addressed the remarks.
“Verbal abuse is not okay. Nashville; I regret not being at the council meeting last night. I’ve been home since Monday with a bad sinus infection,” wrote Glover. “I am embarrassed to be part of such a group that elected our current pro-temp. […] I am sorry to the Johnston family and Ms. Willis and anyone else in the chambers. […] To our council….realize we represent the people not just some personal opinion. There is NO ONE on this council who is the smartest ever. Metro Council hit a new low last night.”
Prior to Mendes shutting down the community coalition from speaking, one of the resolution co-sponsors, Councilman Robert Swope, recited the resolution in its entirety to emphasize Johnston’s lifetime of service. The resolution catalogued details of Johnston’s life and extolled him for his work as a minister, historian, author, coach, producer, speaker, and businessman.
According to the resolution, Johnston founded a public library dedicated to the Judeo-Christian American heritage, the American Constitution Center; founded and operated a free pastor training network, Patriot Pastors; founded and operated an organization dedicated to feeding, clothing, and ministering to over 20,000 of Nashville’s homeless, Layman Lessons Ministries; authored 62 books about God and America; assisted in legislation across 28 states; produced 12 documentaries and 100 television programs bringing light to the crises and mental health issues facing the homeless.
“Johnston’s never-ending commitment to God, America, and his fellow man have been apparent for decades in Nashville, his home, and the homeless community continues to mourn his loss. He will forever be remembered as a true Man of God, and a stalwart believer that ALL men, and women, are created equal and should be treated and loved accordingly,” read the resolution.
Along with the crowd of community members, former council member Dwayne Dominy testified to Johnston’s contributions and character. Dominy shared that he’d gathered the information used in the resolution.
Dominy testified that one of Nashville’s prominent reverends, Pastor Enoch Fuzz, told him that Johnston had given at least $2 million worth of food to his congregation alone. Fuzz couldn’t attend the meeting due to complications with cancer.
“Louie was a friend of mine. Louie gave tirelessly,” stated Dominy. “I know personally folks that he’s provided food for, I’ve donated food from organizations myself to his ministry, and he always had a place where people could use it to take care of the hungry.”
In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Glover explained that he was shocked and infuriated by Mendes’ conduct.
“Had I been there, it would not have ended the way it did. There are just certain things in life you do not do – and what Council Member Mendes did crossed the line, way crossed the line, and that should never ever be allowed on the council floor,” said Glover. “He could’ve let this slide and it would’ve all been over. But he chose to take this council to an all-time low. I was embarrassed – and I wasn’t even there.”
The Star was unable to obtain comment from any of the community members in attendance at the council meeting by press time.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Bob Mendes” by Bob Mendes. Background Photo “Nashville Town Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.