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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
Constitutional Conservative John A. Gentry has been fighting to restore Tennesseans’ right of remonstrance for several years and is now running for the Tennessee House seat in District 45, currently held by Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville).
“I use my campaigns for high office as a platform to educate Tennesseans about our state constitution, and to expose corruption in government,” Gentry told The Tennessee Conservative concerning his current bid for office and 2022 run for Governor.
“The heart of my work is to restore the right of remonstrance. […] the voice of people in government, and a solution to rampant corruption in government,” Gentry wrote.
But what is this “right of remonstrance” and why do so many people not know about it?
Article 1, Section 23, of the Tennessee Constitution reads, “That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner […] to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance.”
Gentry deems this right, “the cornerstone of our constitutional system” and says that because it has been “so oppressed over time, it has been wiped from our collective knowledge.”
In January 2019, this right was exercised for the first time since 1850 when Gentry’s demand for reform of Tennessee’s judiciary was read aloud on the House floor. As a result of this remonstrance, the entire judge membership of the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct were removed from office.
“Imagine what we could accomplish,” says Gentry, “with the full weight of the people, in exercise of this right,” alongside the right to reform government, to exercise sovereignty, and to instruct representatives.
“Literally, election integrity and transparency could become a reality overnight,” he writes.
According to Gentry, when he first attempted to file this written remonstrance, Clerk of the House Tammy Letzler refused to accept it, citing “policy” that a petition/remonstrance must only be presented to the Clerk of the House by a sitting member of the body. Gentry maintains that there was no such policy since this right had not been exercised in almost two centuries.
Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) was the only House member to agree to speak with Gentry about the matter and worked to get the written remonstrance filed. The document was announced on the floor of the House, but according to Gentry, “Pursuant to House Rules of Order, Rule 15, my remonstrance should have been read at the table, or I should have been permitted to present my remonstrance orally.”
In May 2019, Gentry sued then Speaker of the House Glen Casada, asking the court to order that his remonstrance be read at the table or that he be allowed to orally present it to the legislature. The case was dismissed with the court deciding that Gentry had already fully exercised his right via written document.
Gentry states that when exercising his right initially, he had been deceived by a false version of the Tennessee Constitution available on the General Assembly’s website which left out the right of remonstrance. This was deemed a “typographical error” when addressed in the State Court of Appeals.
Gentry would go on to attempt to exercise this right a second time in May 2021, essentially requesting that the legislature acknowledge the right of remonstrance.
This attempt sought the “resolution of the General Assembly to welcome, hear and decide petitions/remonstrances from the people, and to reinstate the Propositions and Grievances committee” that existed in the early 1800s.
Instead of submitting a written remonstrance again, Gentry reached out to Rep. Johnny Garrett, asking him to file an application/remonstrance to present by oral address, with the Clerk of the House.
Gentry writes that Rep. Garrett initially ignored this request but later agreed to meet after receiving a Notice of Intent to sue.
Rep. Garrett then filed Gentry’s application and it was announced on the House floor. Gentry was then told that if he wanted to orally address the body he needed to contact Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), who according to Gentry, continuously ignored all requests to schedule a time for address.
“Cameron Sexton, in conspiracy with members of the judiciary, and the Office of Attorney General are grossly and knowingly oppressing this right,” noted Gentry.
In December 2021, he filed a lawsuit against Speaker Sexton seeking a court order for Sexton to perform his Constitutional duty. In response, the Speaker admitted to not replying to Gentry.
The trial court dismissed this lawsuit citing “res judicata” which means you can’t sue the same party for the same cause of action. This decision was upheld by the State Court of Appeals.
The Attorney General’s Office, representing the Speaker of the House, maintained that it didn’t matter if a different individual held that office, Gentry was suing the Speaker of the House for the second time.
The representation for the AG’s office also claimed that there was not a viable difference between the cause of action in Gentry’s suits, despite one being a written remonstrance and the other being an application for oral address.
Gentry’s case is currently on appeal, waiting for the Tennessee Supreme Court to decide whether or not it will be heard.
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at email@example.com.