‘Protecting the innocence of our children’ | Proposed Knox County Commission resolution sparking debate

Knox County Commissioner Rhonda Lee penned the resolution.
Knox County Commissioner Rhonda Lee penned the resolution.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knox County Commissioner Rhonda Lee said she wants to protect children, but her proposed resolution is sparking debate.

“I’m surprised of any pushback, to be honest, of anybody who would not stand up for anything, any way that would protect their children,” Lee said.

Lee’s proposed resolution states, “the Knox County Commission neither supports nor approves of activities, programs, events, content, or institutions which support, normalize or encourage the sexualization of children and youth.”

She said her goal is to protect the innocence of children. She said an example of these activities would be some types of drag shows, citing those with explicit or sexual content.

“I’m not talking about men or women dressing up as men and women, I’m talking about sexual acts that would be performed at any of those,” Lee said.

The resolution does not have a list or rules outlining what makes an event or program sexually explicit. Some commissioners raised concerns and said the proposal was too broad.

In a text to WVLT News, Commissioner Larsen Jay said: “I have concerns about the resolution because many areas outline broad assumptions and other parts seem open to a wide interpretation. While I’m still researching the item, other similar resolutions are being used as a starting point for banning books and limiting specific content, which I’m not sure is the proper role of our legislative body. I look forward to a continued debate next week to better understand the intent of the resolution and its potential ramifications.”

Commissioner Courtney Durrett gave similar concerns about the proposal being too broad. Durrett was the only commissioner to vote against the resolution on Monday.

“It is not aimed at closing libraries down, but it’s just to make sure that we’re not spending taxpayer dollars on something that would affect our children in a negative way. I want to protect their innocence as children,” Lee said in response to concerns.

The county commission cannot make laws, but Lee said they can choose to not financially support certain programs, events and groups to “protect the innocence of children.”

The county commission will meet again on Sept. 25 to vote on the resolution.