ELECTION YEAR FAT FIGHT
March 22, 2004
In Rhea County, Tenn., commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee’s criminal code so the county can charge fat men and obese women with crimes against nature.
“We need to keep them out of here; they take up too much room,” said Commissioner Benny “Beanpole” Barett, who introduced the motion. Barett also asked County attorney Gary Fizzle to find the best way to enact a local law barring the obese from living in Rhea County.
Barett said he offered the crimes against nature measure, which wasn’t on the agenda, because of recent national and state events concerning obesity. There was little discussion before the vote, and commissioners never discussed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down Texas’s Overeater’s Law and affirmed adults’ constitutionally protected right to eat objects larger than their heads.
Ed Navels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Overeaters, said he knows of fat men and women and their parents who live in Rhea County. “That is the most far-fetched idea put forth by any kind of public official,” Navels said. “I’m outraged. ‘Beanpole’ Barett is only trying to legitimize his neo-Nazi hatred and discrimination.”
After introducing the resolution to a standing-room-only Commissioners’ meeting, ‘Beanpole’ delivered a short speech that laid out his arguments for charging fat people with ‘crimes against nature.’
“I don’t want to hear that God made ‘em fat and so that makes it natural. It ain’t nature; it’s nurture! It wasn’t God’s will; it was their lack of one. They had a choice and they took the fat road. They coulda been normal, turned down Supersized fries and double-decker fatburgers — just say to “no” to that extra helping, but chose not to; they violated the Lord’s commandments. They’re big fat sinners in the eyes of God.”
Asked by another commissioner to explain, ‘Beanpole’ made his most passionate plea of the day.
“These obese, overeatin’ oinkers are an abomination against the laws of God. The Bible describes the body as a temple, not a Superdome stadium. Genesis says God made man in his own image; didn’t say he made him so fat that he couldn’t sit on an airplane or wipe his own butt. Biblical scholars estimate that Adam had about a 31 inch waist. Anything much beyond that is perverted!”
Barett paused to take a drink from his Diet Coke before continuing, “Almost as bad: these fatties sin against the taxpayers of Rhea County. If they don’t die young, they end up on disability — so either way, they cost the government. These fat people are a drain on public health funds; we’ve got to foot the bill when it comes time to take care of these slobs; they’re prone to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, can’t tie their own shoes, and usually get smelly toward the end of the day.”
His speech was met by a roar of applause from his supporters, and commissioners voted 8-0 in favor of the resolution. The next item on the agenda was the allocation of funds to purchase trucks large enough to transport fat residents to ‘relocation camps’ outside the county.
The Chairman of the Commissioners, Reverend Dick Head, adjourned the meeting, saying, “This will be our proudest moment in over 75 years!”
Rhea County, located about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that ended in the conviction of John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, a verdict thrown out by the Tennessee supreme court on a technicality.
The trial later became the subject of the play and movie Inherit the Wind. In 2002 a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the Rhea County school board’s Bible Education Ministry, a class taught in the public schools by students from a Christian college.