The mayors of the municipalities in Newton County approached me and asked that I correspond with the BOC and relay to them our feelings. Below you will find a letter I am delivering to each member of the BOC. It contains four requests the mayors have.
This letter has nothing to do with supporting or not supporting a mosque, church or any place of commerce, school, etc. It is about following the rules that govern our great nation, which we don’t believe the BOC is currently doing. The mayors want to be transparent and let you know the action we took.
Ronnie Johnston, Mayor
City of Covington
Dear County Commissioners:
The nation is watching Newton County … and we are being embarrassed by our county leaders. As a community, our goal should be to move everyone forward and to create an atmosphere where people want to live, work and spend their leisure time. As we are creating an environment to attract people and commerce to our community, I am sad to say that how the proposed mosque was handled by the Board of Commissioners has hindered us in achieving those goals.
The Bill of Rights applies to all citizens and the Third Article states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Simply put, by placing a moratorium on places of worship, you are, in my opinion, violating the Third Article and making Newton County and its residents look ignorant and closed-minded. Do I have concerns and questions about any proposed development, including the mosque? Absolutely. However, there are proper ways to voice those concerns and have those questions answered.
The fact that organizations like the United States Department of Justice, the NAACP and the Council on American Islamic Relations are threatening to come to our community and force us to “do the right thing,” is shameful. We should do the right thing without being forced. Now is your opportunity to take a step back and reconsider your stance on the proposed mosque.
Remember, if the mosque or any other development can’t meet the requirements, they will not be able to move forward with their plans. If they do meet the requirements, we need to welcome them. You have already driven a wedge between our community and those associated with the proposed mosque and we will all have to work to undo some of the ill will you created by your actions. There have been many times in the history of our nation where people of all ethnicities, beliefs and religious backgrounds have been embraced. It is the America we all know and love.
I have been asked by mayors of the municipalities in Newton County to contact you with our requests. Let me be clear, these are the thoughts of all of the mayors in Newton County.
The mayors of the municipalities in Newton County have four requests:
1) Remove the moratorium you enacted on places of worship.
2) Set up a meeting with the leaders of the proposed mosque, county commissioners and the mayors of Newton County’s municipalities to discuss the project.
3) Following that meeting, disseminate the information learned in the meeting and assure the citizens of Newton County of the following: That due diligence will be carried out and a comprehensive plan will be created to help the Muslim community integrate into our community in a positive way, provided they meet the permitting requirements and every local law that would apply to all Americans.
4) Fully execute the permitting process in place that protects our community.
Newton County, Georgia, welcomes all people. It is the only way to move forward. Please respond to this correspondence by Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016.
Ronnie Johnston, Covington
Jerry Roseberry, Oxford
Jefferson Riley, Mansfield
Gregg Ellwanger, Newborn
Arline Chapman, Porterdale