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Michigan says yes to bullying as long as the bully uses religion to beat up people

Michigan says yes to bullying as long as the bully uses religion to beat up people

A bill passed in the Michigan Republican-led Senate on November 2 that has a clause that allows bullying if religion is used as a defense: if “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment.

The bill was named the Matt's Safe School Law after Matt Epling, who committed suicide as a result of constant bullying.  The Christian Post adds:

The bill passed the Republican-led Senate along party lines. Democrats claim the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect kids from bullies.

"Not only does this not protect kids who are bullied, it further endangers them by legitimizing excuses for tormenting a student,” said state senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer said the bill didn’t commemorate Epling, calling it a “[sick] irony.”

Understanding the difference between freedom of expression and infringing on the welfare of others appears to be the point of contention. Critics say it’s a line that will be hard to define.

“Would it be OK if someone harassed or even beat up your child, or any child, because the bully is morally opposed to eating meat? Being fat?” wrote Rob Zimmer, Portage, Mich. resident, to mlive.com. “I mean, because the Bible says that your body is a temple so it's OK for a ‘Christian’ bully to beat you up for being out of shape, right?”

Republicans say the bill is a necessary step to stop bullying in schools. Indeed Michigan is one of several remaining states that haven’t enacted anti-bullying legislation.

But Democrats have some suggestions.

In addition to removing the clause, critics want to enumerate the common reasons why students are bullied. Groups, like social rights organization Equality Michigan, are also calling for tighter reporting of bullying events.

Those against the bill say it fails to protect the unprotected, and thus the morality and wisdom of the bill is questionable at best. They say we should protect the freedom of religious and moral expression but not at the peril of others.

The bill will now go to the Michigan House of Representatives, which is also Republican-led.

Matt Epling's father explains the bill.   He says we need to listen to our students, what they need from us. This legislation is not it…there are to be no protected classes in anti-bullying legislation."  Mr. Epling also wants an apology from those who put the clause in the bill.

Our friends overseas had this to say about the issue at the blog Meercat9.com:

I'm honestly getting sick of writing about people in America doing stupid things, but this has got to be one of the worst. Michigan's Republican Party (Bush, not Obama) have modified anti-bullying bill SB137 (also known as "Matt's Safe School Law") to include a clause that allows bullying based on "moral convictions". It (quote) "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."

This may as well serve as the poster child for religious zealots holding back human rights and morality in general.

This legislation apparently means that as a student, or even teacher, canteen lady, or parent – you would be legally allowed to preach about how immoral, unnatural and wrong it is to be homosexual – to the affected students directly. If a student walked up to the canteen looking particularly flamboyant, the canteen lady would be allowed to tell him how sinful he is without a single repercussion – because it's her freedom of speech to bully a gay student into suicide as long as she's only pointing out her opinions. The only requirement is that she's sincere in that belief. If she's joking, then she'd be in all sorts of trouble.

But the problem isn't just the increased acceptance of LGBTI bullying. Anybody who is outside the scope of mainstream religious ideology is also a legitimate target under state-endorsed bullying. Atheist? You better not let anybody find out you're a Godless, sinful, immoral, sodomite. Outspoken woman? Men are superior by default, shut up. Rape victim who wasn't loud enough? It's your fault and you should die. Science class? I'm not letting that sinful heathen tell me the Earth is older than 6000 years.

I sincerely hold the belief that any Christian in favour of this legislation should be publicly humiliated and bullied for their filth on grounds of my moral conviction. I'll be sure to tell them repeatedly to their faces if I ever decide to travel there.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • Mr. Epling's video is telling in that the senate sneaked the "it's okay to bully in the name of religion" clause with very little notice.

    This is absolutely disgusting.

    The Christian right is always complaining that they are "discriminated" in America. They are not being persecuted or discriminated; they are only losing perceived privileges.

    Beyond the open hatred for gay kids that this bill obviously endorses, will this open the door for bullying children whose families do not celebrate Christmas due to religious reasons? Bullying young students from an Islamic family? Jewish children? Maybe harassing children of racial groups because your parents' religion endorses white supremacy?

    I can only hope that the Michigan house does not pass this. I feel bad for Matt's father, with this legislation named after his son. Talk about rubbing salt into a wound.

    This illustrates why so many of us are becoming disgusted with religion and politicians who have sold their souls to the religious right.


    • They are also the one doing the bullying. No one, not even Xians, has the right to bully people. My moral convictions are that people should not follow dogma, but rather think for themselves without imposing their views on others. Can I get away with "bullying" that on the Religious Reich children?

  • Deb

    In order get rid of bullying, we have to go to the source of the problem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_2LpLhOsc4

    • So what does feminism have to do with bullying and this particular piece of legislation? Not all of us women believe the men should pay on the first date, do manly chores, etc.


  • Theophile

    Hi Dakota,
    I remember 7th grade back in 69 when the 10 commandments were banned and schools for the 1st time had to get permission from the parents to administer corporal punishment(swats) on students. It seemed the students whose parents did not give permission to the school to maintain discipline in the classroom, started bullying the teachers!
    For a real look at religious bullying, read: Foxes book of Martyrs:

    • That simply is not true. I was one of those children who my parents said no, despite the fact my father was abusive. I never once bullied anyone. In fact, according to my mother, the teachers complained I was too good. So I don't think anyone should stereotype anyone.

  • thomas mc

    The Republican Party is now the Devil Incarnate!

    • ROFLMAO! That's too funny!

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