michigan republican anti-bullying law provides exception for religious bullying

An anti-bullying law in the Michigan State Senate, SB 137, ironically also called “Matt’s Safe School Law” after 14-year old Matt Eppling who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied, was passed on partisan lines by Michigan Republican senators without a single Democratic vote. And while most anti-bullying laws are to be applauded, the Michigan Republicans passed an amended bill, which contained an insert reading:

“This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.”

AMAZINGLY, Michigan Republicans excluded anything said from a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” from being considered as bullying. An accused bully who claims that his speech emanated from his or her religious beliefs, is by definition in this law, not a bully. That is to say, this Michigan Republican anti-bullying bill contains language that PROTECTS bullying if it is RELIGIOUS bullying, or speech that is uttered from what the bully claims is a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

As Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said regarding the final version of the bill, it is a “blueprint for bullying.” And I agree. As long as a bully, be it a student, a parent, a school employee, or a school volunteer says that their bullying of a student was part of their religious beliefs or moral convictions, then it’s not really bullying.

And it’s easy to see where this is headed and why the language was inserted. With the debate over same-sex marriage and the church’s view of homosexuality continuing to escalate, Michigan Republicans want to make sure those religious fundamentalists within their constituency are protected from bullying laws when they and/or their children give some young gay student their best Westboro Baptist impression.

The new Michigan law is an outline for precisely how to bully and get away with it. Just claim your hateful and hurtful speech is part of your religious beliefs, and it’s suddenly OK.

Once again, potential religious oppression is exempted from laws that are designed to protect children. You can’t bully children unless you do it in the name of the Lord!

Absolutely disgusting!






12 Responses

  1. Sadly, that same loophole would also protect Muslims that use their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to threaten people in Dearborn, because under Sharia it is permissible to have “conversions” under duress.

    I have no use for pandering politicians, regardless of party. That’s why I’m not a member of either of the Big Two parties.

  2. Bob,
    Great column. As I former Michigan resident and voter, this is sickening. I can completely see Michigan republicans running ads about how the democrats “want bullying in schools” and “leave your kids unsafe” for voting against this. This is a horrible political corruption of religion. If there are religious sects that want to spew hatred from the pulpit a their places of worship fine, but to manipulate and brutalize other kids on a public camps is really disgusting.

  3. It is at least equally disgusting when teachers and principals force a message upon Christian students that homosexuality is “simply another equally-valid lifestyle”, or rip a lunch from a small child’s hands and scream that praying “is not allowed at school”.

    Perhaps everyone would be better off if governments at every level stopped wasting money on indoctrination centers that are masquerading as “public education”.

  4. I don’t see the big deal. Bullying is bad if you don’t have a good reason for it. But it’s perfectly OK if you have pure motives.

  5. tom, do you really believe that? i don’t see anywhere in the law that says teachers should rip lunches out of a small child’s hands. what is wrong with a kid praying at lunchtime at school?
    and tom, do you not think that homosexuality is not “simply another equally-valid lifestyle”? please explain you use of the word ‘valid’ in the preceding sentence (remembering that you used it in reference to the curriculum of a public school).
    thanx, bc

  6. Actually, Bob, it looks to me that Bondboy was agreeing with you. I think he was being sarcastic.

    I’ll respond to your questions when I have more time. Part of the answer will include links to news reports of exactly such incidents. “The law” does not necessarily say that teachers may behave that way, but that is what some of them do. It is a form of tyrannical bullying, an abuse of power.

  7. Tom,
    The public schools role is to teach all students. If you want Christian students taught send them to a private christian school or home school them. There is NO PROHIBITION in the Bible that homosexuality laws apply to non-believers. You have to acknowledge that. Second, All people are human beings and God’s beloved people. They deserved to be treated with dignity regardless of anything. Equally Jesus put the church in charge of salvation, NOT the public schools. You cannot expect them to teach in a “Christian way.” (if such a thing exists).

    Christian schools can equally be indoctrinations centers. I have seen it first hand. Examples: If you are not a literal creationist, you are a bad Christian. If you do not believe Moses wrote the Torah you as in danger of Hell-fire. Abortion is a unforgivable sin.

    This law WILL harm christians and the Gospel, when the first story comes out about Christians bullying students. What happens when there is a Christian-Muslim bullying fight between two groups? Where both claim an “exception” It will turn people off.

    in response to your Child’s lunch being ripped away in public school. I think free expression of prayer is acceptable. If that happened in a public school the principle should be punished accordingly.

  8. which should be addressed as unacceptable behavior. those who are hostile to one’s private expression of religion should be faulted just as much as those religious individuals who are hostile towards lifestyles and beliefs held by the non-religious.

  9. Seems like this would also protect ultra-right-wing religious folks (Muslim, Jewish, etc) who berate or abuse women for not dressing modestly enough.

  10. In case it wasn’t clear, I was being sarcastic.

    Is it not totally insane that one has to even create a justification to convince people who claim to follow a certain Jesus Christ that bullying people for any reason is unacceptable?

    Do we really have to develop a biblical hermeneutic with references from the Old and New Testaments to convince people to act like decent human beings? If so, christianity is one big rabbit hole.

  11. […] “michigan republican anti-bullying law provides exception for religious bullying“ […]

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