Jones school map

During a recent county Planning Committee meeting, Be the Bush, a religious recovery organization, requested a sweeping zoning change that the committee chose to offer a negative recommendation because members felt the request was too broad.

While Be the Bush will amend its request to a narrower conditional use change, its leadership has expressed some concerns about several allegations made at the meeting by a group of homeowners who live near the Old Jones Elementary where the ministry would like to relocate.

“One of the things being portrayed is of this being a public safety issue. I don’t believe it to be a public safety issue because of it being us,” BtB founder Caleb McCall said.

McCall said that his ministry is not a halfway house, or a secular treatment or a medically assisted treatment facility.

“We’ve been here for three years and never had one complaint, one police call to our facility or property. And this has been turned into a public safety issue,” McCall said.

“One of the reasons people are trying to create this narrative, including our District Attorney, is making this narrative that we have sex offenders, gang members and drug addicts on this property,” McCall said.

During the meeting in question, DA Craig Northcott said that had objected to Be the Bush’s request to be an “appropriate organization for court ordered rehabilitation services…(because) they don’t have a single person on their staff, not one, that is trained in drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. They don’t have a screening process to keep drug offenders away from child molesters (Johnson later said that child molesters were not accepted by the group) from other offenders. They don’t have the screening process to keep Arian Nation away from Gangster Disciples.

“This is a public safety risk,” Northcott said. He said that the homes near the proposed facility would present a “target rich environment for temptation for those who succumb to other problems.”    

McCall countered, “I do not have sex offenders on my property. We have a vetting system to make sure they are not sex offenders.”

McCall further called the allegations untruths.

“This is speculation, and him saying something that was not a fact, something that was not true. That is a lie because I do not have sex offenders on my property,” McCall said.

“If anybody comes to my property and they were a gang member, they are no longer gang members; they have left that life and made a commitment for Christ,” he said.

“They are a Christian and (Northcott) is a Christian. That would make these individuals his brothers and sisters in Christ, according to the Bible,” McCall said. “To come in to a public meeting and call me a liar to say that I’ve (said) I’m a treatment center. I’m not trying to portray any different picture. Ever since I’ve started, I have been a faith-based discipleship rehabilitation program. I’ve never claimed to be a treatment center (or) to have licensed counselors.”   

McCall said that his program is different from secular drug treatment programs.

“I am a faith-based recovery discipleship program, but I’m not a licensed treatment facility…” McCall said. “This whole conversation about trying to (hold us to the standards) of a secular treatment center, that narrative is false, not true and has never been true.”

McCall said that his ministry treats life controlling issues, including but not limited to drug recovery.

“We are a discipleship program. We are a ministry. People come there and get help, the help that we have to offer which is the Bible, which is the Word of God, discipleship courses, which is church and church attendance,” McCall said. 

Participants have a strict schedule with close supervision and twice daily devotions and a every other class then work schedule.

“They have no access to the outside world...They are drug tested, alcohol tested, nicotine tested. It is proven that they are not using,” he said.

“We are sending people out of the program who are taxpaying, citizens of the community. We are adding to the community, not taking away,” McCall said.

“We are not in this for the money. We’re in this to help people. I’ve been doing this in the community for a while and I want to continue to do it at this new place on a bigger scale,” he said, saying that the high end of residents would be 35 people.

“God gave me a second chance and he’s equipped me to give second chances to men who are just like me,” McCall said.

“If this was a secular rehab treatment facility going up in my backyard, I wouldn’t want this either, but this is not what we are. We are a Christian faith based organization,” McCall said.

Be the Bush is working to get on a future Planning Commission meeting agenda.    

John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, enjoys painting, dancing and exploring the outdoors.

Staff Writer

Download the free Manchester Times mobile app at the app store. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories.

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