It's a debate surrounding the separation of church and state. A nationally-known group is voicing concerns over a worship service that's part of the inauguration of Governor-Elect Bill Lee. 

"We're hoping Governor Lee reflects on the first amendment's guarantee of a secular government," said attorney Ryan Jayne of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation non-profit.

Jayne sent the Gov.-elect a letter raising concerns about a worship service that's part of Saturday's inauguration events. 

"He's going to be taking an oath to uphold the constitution, and that means representing everyone in Tennessee, not just those who share his private religion," said Jayne. 

Representative for Gov.-elect Lee, Laine Arnold, told News4 the inaugural events are planned by a separate committee and paid for by private funds. 

"The Governor-elect is excited to celebrate inauguration activities with Tennesseans from across the state and looks forward to the worship service on Saturday before his swearing-in takes place,” Arnold said. 

Jayne said there's still a problem.

"It sends a message to anyone who doesn't share that religious affiliation that they're not the governor's favorite group," he said.

Some past inaugurations including Governor Bill Haslam's have included worship services in the past. 

Jayne said they don't search for violations and only knew about it this time because they were sent a complaint. 

Jayne said one other similar letter was sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation this year. He said another attorney with the group wrote to the Gov.-elect of South Dakota over similar circumstances.

"The nation is changing, and Nashville is changing, and the general trend across the country is more in favor of secularism in the government," said Jayne.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Forrest Sanders is an award-winning reporter, videographer and editor at News4.

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