Religious and Moral Conviction Provision Dropped From Anti-Bullying Law

On Sunday, I wrote a dialogue debating the pros and cons of specifically exempting statements of “sincere religious or moral convictions” from being taken as bullying in an anti-bullying law for schools. I’m only seeing now that on Monday there was big news about the proposed exception that sparked this debate:

Gay and Muslim groups say they are relieved after a Michigan lawmaker agreed to drop a provision in an anti-bullying bill that would have carved out an exemption for religious or moral beliefs.

State Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, inserted a carve-out for a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” in the Senate version of the bill. The state House of Representatives’ version of the bill did not include the provision.

Jones on Monday (Nov. 14) said he would drop his amendment and vote for the House version after critics said the language could allow gay, Muslim or other minority students to face harassment.

Read More. 

(Hat Tip: David B at Secular Cafe)

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • laurentweppe

    Sadly, we will never see a big angry gay kid pulling a Zanguief on a young douchebag before telling the headmaster “God told me that he was full of shit” and getting away with it.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    So Jones’ amendment basically gutting the bill has been dropped. Apparently the anti-bullying lobby managed to convince him that bullying is wrong no matter what excuse the bully uses.

    • N. Nescio

      I wonder if it had anything to do with a legislator finally realizing that the State of Michigan has several areas with a relatively large Muslim population, which would receive the same protection of *THEIR* sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions.

      I was rather looking forward to the absolute shitfit the Christians would throw once some of their children got a taste of State-protected Islamic bullying.

  • Bryony Vaughn

    Rick Jones told me the amendment wasn’t his (put there by some staff lawyers) and he was never attached to it. I believe it was just an excuse to compromise and look reasonable while passing the ineffective legislation he wanted to from the beginning.

    Rick Jones says he’s willing to compromise further to have mandated reporting added. He doesn’t want mandated staff anti-bullying training… it costs money. He also says enumerated protected groups, what shown to be the key difference in whether anti-bullying laws decrease incidents and truancy & drop out rates, WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

    Michiganders, please call your senator and demand EFFECTIVE anti-bullying legislation. Say you stand with the social workers and would rather have no anti-bullying legislation pass than have anti-bullying “in name only” legislation pass.

    Effective anti-bullying legislation:
    * Enumerates protected classes,
    * Provides staff anti-bullying training,
    * Mandates reporting, and
    * Holds administrators accountable.

    Thank you for helping make Michigan as good as it can be.

    Sign up for action alerts:
    Find your Michigan senator:

  • Physicalist

    By the way, you might want to let the tech folks (if such there be) know that your blog is not showing up in some people’s (viz., my) mobile devices.

    Ed’s and PZ’s sites come up fine in a mobile version (though the front FTB page is useless b/c only part of it fits on the screen). But any time I try to visit any of your pages I get a 404 error and a report saying “Unable to parse URL in /home/newfreet/pulic_html/wp-includes/class-wp.php on line 151″

  • Chris

    Enumerates protected classes

    Bad idea, if they aren’t on the list then they won’t be protected so all the bullying of weak kids, nerds, geeks etc will be OK because they can’t be identified in a simple way so won’t be enumerated.

    The only protected class should be all children in all schools.

  • grumpyoldfart

    One of the oldest tricks in the book. Drop hints that taxes will rise; wait until everybody is filled with fear, and then dramatically announce that taxes will not be raised. The grateful crowd will cheer their new hero and remember to vote for him at the next election (yet he has done nothing!)

    Rick Jones has pulled the same stunt. He introduced an amendment that got a lot of people really worried, and then he promised to get rid of the amendment. The citizens heave a sigh of relief, and many will believe that it was Rick Jones who saved their children from potential bullying (yet Rick Jones’ actions add up to zero; he did nothing!)

  • Gwynnyd

    While your alter-egos are debating the issue, I came across this justification for bullying, re-posted by Michigan Atheists. It’s from described as: “FSTDT
    An archive of the most hilarious, bizarre, ignorant, bigoted, and terrifying quotes from fundies all over the internet! The FSTDT archive is the largest collection of fundie quotes on the planet.”

    It’s people like this guy who would be using the religious exemption for bullying.

    Quote# 83832

    A Little More on Bullying

    I mentioned in a recent post that, like Bonald at Throne and Altar, I actually support bullying under certain circumstances. Let me flesh that out a little more.

    Actually, let me just state my rule for bullying: if it’s used as a means of enforcing normative behaviors, I’m all for it. And yeah, that means giving shit to fairies and tomboys and so on.

    Normative behaviors exist for a reason. Like tradition, social norms tell us provide us a measure of what is good and just, especially for those who are too stupid to figure it out on their own. Social disapproval of immoral behaviors (like homosexuality, adultery, etc.) is often a more powerful disincentive to commit them than legal consequences; there are limits to others’ ability to probe into your legal indiscretions, but the stench of a social brand in some degenerate’s ass can linger in a community’s collective hindbrain for generations. And so it was that, for a long time, it was wholly unnecessary for governments to police morality: communities did it their own damn selves.

    Of course, one can say, “Well, who are you to force the norm of traditional family on, say, some good-hearted, hard-working single mother?” But one would be an idiot for saying that, given the abundance of studies (at least one by no less-respected a medical journal than The Lancet, a casual Googling revealed) demonstrating that childen raised in single-family are worse off in pretty much every way: they exhibit higher rates of mental illness, suicide attempts, injury, alcoholism, drug addiction, and all-cause mortality, even after adjusting for socioeconomic status and parents’ health. Traditional societies knew and understood that children did best who were raised in a norm-conforming household; it is only in our (supposedly) enlightened modern society that we make virtuous angels out of the sluts and cads who ruin their kids’ lives so that they can find themselves (or whatever). That’s why traditional societies ostracized such people while modern societies make movies about them while ignoring all the evil they bring into the world. Likewise with the destruction of traditional gender roles (in the form of flamboyant homosexuals, cross-dressers, and transgender freakazoids).

    So to the extent that people bullied today are serial violators of perfectly rational social norms, they ought to be subject to social disapproval — even quite severely so. Those who imagine there is a “right” to attend a school without being bullied are deluded: one never has a right to behave however one wishes without consequences. Accepting this fact is a key step toward maturity. I’m torn on the extent to which this ought to entail physical bullying (certainly, I think it’s justified when one is being an asshole about defying social norms, as in the case of the transgender abomination that got his/her ass unceremoniously pummeled into a seizure at a Baltimore-area McDonald’s recently for belligerently insisting on using an occupied women’s restroom), but I see nothing wrong with quite persistent verbal ribbing.

    But to the extent bullying represents mindless, irrational cruelty (for instance, assaulting those whose only crime is being skinny, awkward, smart, or whatever), it ought to be brought under control. Unlike defiance of social norms, being skinny or fat or awkward or smart really doesn’t hurt anyone — and there’s no sense in punishing them for it. It’s intrinsic to the nature of demographics, after all, that not everyone can be ripped, engaging, and of modest intellect). Of course, that’s no reason to have to associate with them (and awkward people really shouldn’t have any friends until they learn to go out and make some on their own), but again, it’s no reason to subject them to punishment, either. An Unmarried Man has a good post on the topic related to fat (and pregnant) women; it’s worth a read.

    One may object to my characterization of bullying in defense of social norms as not only valid and reasonable but right and good as fighting fire with fire. It is, of course — but sometimes that’s perfectly advisable, as when one stops the spread of a firestorm by burning away the flammable brush in a certain circumfrence around it. It’s worth bearing in mind that the same liberals who decry bullying are perfectly content to bully in defense of their own social norms, at the expense of Christians and non-sexual deviants and so on; FIRE is dedicated to fighting these types of bullying in universities, where it has the potential to devastate a person’s future to an extent routine beating-up-fags stuff doesn’t . If there is, in fact, something like a war going on to determine whose social values ought to be ascendant, I see no reason why one side should be expected to unilaterally disarm.

    Even for the sake of the children.

    Proph, Collapse: The Blog 146 Comments [9/15/2011 3:56:30 AM] (this is a link in the original if you want to see the comment in situ)

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I was bullied in high school. I was (outwardly) Christian, heterosexual, had two parents living together, and met other social norms. I was bullied because I was non-athletic*, intellectual, introverted, and socially awkward. Most people I know who were bullied in school were bullied for the same reasons I was.

      *Actually I was a racing sailor, competing at a very high level, but that wasn’t a “real” sport.