Strangest Laws in Tennessee

The Constitution of the ‘Volunteer State’ came into effect on 1 June 1796, the same time the state was admitted into the Union. The second and third versions of the document were adopted in 1835 and 1870 with the latter version still in use today. 

Included in the Constitution are many laws that law enforcement officials willfully disregard, plus others that state legislators should have known were unenforceable when they wrote them in the first place. For instance, church ministers are, by law, not allowed to hold office in either Houses of Legislature and interracial marriages are not permitted within the state.

Below is a list of eight peculiar laws from the State of Tennessee that most state residents might not be aware of.

1. Duelists may not hold public office

According to article IX, section 3 of the state Constitution, “Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this State, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.”

2. Interracial marriages are illegal

This old Tennessean law prohibits white people from intermarrying with negroes, mulattoes, or persons of mixed blood, descended from a negro to the third generation inclusive of those living together as man and wife. This law was overturned in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriages.

3. Minors are not allowed to play pinball

This law hails from the city of Nashville. Any person who owns a gaming arcade and has, as part of the gaming contraptions, a pinball machine, must not permit any minor under the age of 18 years to play, operate or use any such machine or to loiter about the same.

When starting a business in Tennessee, you need to understand the rules that the state imposes on businesses. Perhaps these guides on how to start an LLC in Tennessee and how to find a great registered agent in Tennessee can help you avoid any legal issues when opening or doing business in the state.

4. Church ministers are not allowed to hold public office

Article IX, section 1 of Tennessee law states that “Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.”

5. Don’t throw snowballs at trees

In the town of Bell Buckle, it is illegal for anyone to maliciously throw any stone, snowball, bottle, or any other missile upon or at any vehicle, building, tree, or other public or private property or upon or at any person.

6. It is illegal for the state government to regulate hunting

Tennessee residents who live in suburban areas complained about hunters firing weapons dangerously close to their houses. Their concerns were heard by Rep. Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat, who proposed a bill that would require hunters to get permission from homeowners before firing weapons on private property and within 100 yards of someone’s home.

However, the bill was rejected in a House subcommittee as it is illegal for the government to intervene in hunters’ affairs.

7. Don’t bring skunks into Tennessee

Tennessee has a law against the unlawful importation of skunks. It states that “It is unlawful for any person to import, possess, or cause to be imported into this state any type of live skunk, or to sell, barter, exchange or otherwise transfer any live skunk, except that the prohibitions of this section shall not apply to bona fide zoological parks and research institutions.”

8. More than eight women should not live in a house

It is illegal for more than eight women to live in the same house, as such dwellings are considered brothels in some areas within the state. Law enforcement still uses tactics like this one to identify drug houses.

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