NASHVILLE - House Republicans on Thursday attacked a 20-year-old United Nations proposal for the environment and sustainable growth, calling it a "destructive and insidious" plot advancing "extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control."
Democrats ridiculed Republican Rep. Kevin Brooks' House Joint Resolution 587. They also accused GOP sponsors of deliberately and needlessly trying to stoke public fears about the U.N.'s Agenda 21 model.
Nonetheless, six Democrats leaped aboard the Republican steamroller and helped them pass the resolution in a 72-23 floor vote.
The 1992 nonbinding Agenda 21 emerged from a United Nations Conference on Environment and Development following discussions. It calls for governments across the globe - national, state and local - to focus on sustainable development.
Brooks said the 288-page document contains catch phrases such as "sustainable development," which Brooks argued really means someone could "come in and take your land, take your business and disrupt your life; that's the insidious part of it."
"They [U.N. and allies] want to change the earth," Brooks said. "They want to protect Mother Earth. We're all about conservation. We're all about protecting the environment. We're not about losing our liberty."
During the 35-minute House debate, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfessboro, called Agenda 21 "a step-by-step methodical process that denies United States citizens their property rights."
Backers of the U.N. agenda are working with state and local governments to impose Agenda 21 goals, he argued.
He cited what he said was the city of Murfreesboro's attempts to require a local barbecue and hot-sauce restaurateur, whose business had been recently annexed, to slap new paint on his building and pave his gravel parking lot.
"This is what we're talking about: aesthetics, government overreach, overstepping - this is Agenda 21," he said. "And what we're saying in this resolution is: No, you cannot come in our country, in our backyard, on our property and tell us what we can and cannot do with our private property."
Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, raised the specter of forced abortions as a potential consequence of allowing the U.S. and other national governments to pursue a "caring capacity of the planet."
"They [Agenda 21 proponents] want to cap the number of people that this planet can have," he warned. "That reminds me of children ... [and] China."
Citing that country's policy of one child per couple, Casada said, "how do they attain that cap? Forced abortions. If that doesn't scare you, we need to talk. To reach [U.N. goals] you're going to have to get rid of some people, period."
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, charged much of the GOP resolution was lifted from straight from language crafted by the far-right John Birch Society.
"I typed in 'model bill' and 'Agenda 21' on an Internet search engine," Turner said. "And guess where I found it at - the John Birch Society. ... I don't think in the history of Tennessee [lawmakers have] passed anything from the John Birch Society."
Speaking with reporters later, Turner questioned Republicans' concerns about infringement on private property rights when many of them are pushing legislation forcing businesses to let anyone with a gun store weapons in their locked vehicles sitting on company parking lots.
"I think you'll find them quite a bit talking out of both sides of their mouths" on private property rights, Turner said.