FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — A man is continuing to hold a weekly worship gathering on the Franklin Public Square, despite being told he is in violation of a recently passed ordinance.
Jeff Daniels has gathered every Saturday night on the Public Square for the last two and a half years. He said his events usually consist of five people getting together to sing worship music and the crowd grows as members of the public join in.
Daniels told News 2 several weeks ago an officer informed him of a recent ordinance passed over the summer. A lawyer reached out to the City of Franklin on Daniels’ behalf, arguing his First Amendment right.
City Attorney Shauna Billingsley replied, confirming “…the City did recently amend its Public Gathering and Expression Event code to not grant permits or otherwise consent to events that occur after dark City-wide or after 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night in the DD District.”
The letter also stated, “It is important to note that many complaints were made about your client’s continued weekly use of the Square. Your client and his invitees use of the whole Square every Saturday night for 4 hours along with the amplification of music has the appearance that the area is his alone. And, in effect, he dominates the Square while using it.”
Despite Daniels’ gathering violating that ordinance, he still showed up to worship on Saturday, Dec. 17.
“Jesus is worshiping over us right now with singing. His angels are singing over us right now because we’re obedient to him,” Daniels said in front of dozens who showed up to support him.
Alderman at Large Gabrielle Hansen also attended, saying it was important to her to make sure Daniels wasn’t cited. News 2 asked Hansen if there was a chance Daniels could have been arrested.
“From the rumor mill, yes there were. And we know that the potential is there. I spoke with the city manager this morning, who assured that he’d ask the police chief not to arrest Mr. Daniels at this event,” Hansen said. “But if amplification was included, that he would receive a citation because that is part of the ordinance, not to disturb the quiet and the peace.”
Franklin Police told News 2 there was never any planned action and there were no problems, to their knowledge, at Saturday night’s worship gathering.
According to Hansen, Daniels violating the updated gathering ordinance was an “unintended consequence” and she was previously told it would not interfere with his Saturday night worships. She said she did not think the ordinance represented the feelings of her constituents.
“They’ve left everything they had to come here, and they don’t want to see a politically correct agenda and they certainly don’t want to see worship restricted, churches attacked. That’s not what they came here for,” Hansen explained.
The city invited Daniels to apply for permits to worship at other spots, such as city parks.
Mike Ryan is one of dozens who showed up to support Daniel’s worship on Saturday evening, specifically on the Public Square.
“You can understand why you want to arrest people that are destroying things,” Ryan said. “This is a very peaceful gathering. No reason to interfere with it. We have our public spot right here, this is our home. You let things happen.”
Pastors also attended to show their support.
“Do you fear being cited,” News 2’s Nikki McGee asked Pastor Marvin Young II with One Heart Ministries International.
“I do not, I am fearful of no man, fearful of my God,” Young replied. “But I came out here tonight because we come out every Friday morning and pray. And we want to come out and just declare the name of Jesus.”
Hansen told News 2 she plans to bring the updated ordinance back up with City Council after the Christmas holiday.