Bill Lee

In the middle of last week, Gov. Bill Lee partnered with Samaritan’s Feet — a Christian organization that provides shoes for children as “the foundation for a spiritual and healthy life” — to put new shoes on the feet of elementary school children in Perry County. None of the adults in the pictures I saw — including the governor — wore masks. None of the children appeared old enough to be vaccinated.

Normally, I’d start off by pointing out that the governor partnering with a religious organization to get into a public school in order to low-key proselytize has some First Amendment issues. But y’all, our governor’s male pastor has an OB/GYN willing to diagnose said pastor with being under attack from spiritual warfare. So clearly we are not dealing with a group of people who understand the concept of staying in your lane very well.

If the governor wants to touch kids’ feet in the name of Christ, well, at least they get new shoes out of it. I guess. Just remind me that I need to contribute in 10 years when these kids are launching GoFundMe campaigns to raise money for therapy to deal with this mess.

After the event, NewChannel 5 asked Lee if it really was a good idea to be maskless around unvaccinated children. His answer started, “So I’m vaccinated, and I’m going to act like that.”

Let’s be clear about what happened here: Gov. Lee was asked about a situation in which unmasked adults were in very close contact with unvaccinated children, and his first instinct was to assume that the reporter was asking him about his well-being and not the well-being of the people actually in danger.

Please pause here for me to laugh about this for a good solid five minutes. Gov. Lee, no one is worried about you getting COVID.

Oh, but it gets better! After the governor kind of stumbled around insisting that he does care about the children he spent the day violating CDC guidelines with, Tennessee health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey had to come out and clarify that, yes: “Vaccinated people can transmit the disease, particularly in the first couple of days of illness if they have the illness. We do know that vaccinated people, their viral load goes down quicker, so they typically don’t spread it as much, but the answer to your question is yes.”

So yes, the governor or any of the other unmasked adults — if they had COVID and didn’t know it yet — could pass the virus along to the unvaccinated kids whose feet they were touching. They endangered those kids. And since we live in the state with some of the highest COVID numbers in the world, this concern isn’t some political gotcha question. It really is a matter of whether Gov. Lee is capable of understanding the severity of what’s going on out here and his role in it.

Well, listen. I take that back. If 13,879 deaths — that's roughly the whole population of Soddy Daisy, Tenn. — wasn’t clarifying, and the hospitals being too full for elective surgeries wasn’t bracing, then I think we can rest assured that the governor can’t understand the severity of what’s going on.

If Gov. Lee doesn’t have an interior moral compass to guide him, then I’m glad he’s found a church home he feels connected to. We all need guidance and support. Still, it might be nice if the governor spent some time contemplating Matthew 18:6 and worrying about how that applies to his political stunts.

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