With the close of the first legislative session of 2012, Tennessee has passed an interesting assortment of conservative legislation, summarized by the Associated Press. It's now a felony in the state to sell synthetic salts as bath salts and it's a crime to release "wild-appearing swine without proper documentation."
Some of the more controversial bills that created a buzz on the Internet while they were being deliberated have religious motivations and are aimed at public education, such as:
- SB 0893, which grants legal protections to teachers who allow students to question the theory of evolution;
- HB 2658, which permits the display of "historically significant documents" like the Ten Commandments at public buildings;
- HB 3266, which allows school personnel to participate in student-initiated religious activities; and
- HB 3621, which prohibits teachers from promoting or condoning "gateway sexual activity."
Time magazine points out a key point of controversy over the "gateway sexual activity" bill, which is part of the state's abstinence only sex education stance, is that it is so vague that no one really knows what "gateway sexual activity" is. Critics say that teachers could be penalized for allowing students to hold hands or hug — or even dance too close at school dances.
But in a video released by Tennessee's Family Action Council, Rep. John DeBerry says no explanation is necessary. "Everybody in this room knows what gateway sexual activity is," he explained to lawmakers deliberating on the measure. "Everybody knows there's certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on, there's no stopping, especially for undisciplined, untrained, untaught and unraised children who just want affection from somebody or anybody." Watch: