Michigan Senate Says It’s OK To Bully If It’s In the Name of Jesus

Democrats in Michigan wanted to pass anti-bullying legislation but Republicans — much like they do in Congress — acted as obstructionists.

Instead of stopping the bill outright, though, they made the bill completely useless:

This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. And they fought back Democratic attempts to enumerate particular types of students who are prone to being bullied, such as religious and racial minorities, and gay students.

That wasn’t all. Senate Bill No. 137 was later amended by the Republicans to let bullies off the hook if they act out because of their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

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.

So not only does this bill do nothing to prevent bullying, it encourages Christians to continue to treat gay teens as less-than-equal because their “speech” is now protected on account of Jesus.

The bill passed 26-7. Only Republicans voted in favor of it.

In a sad, ironic twist, the bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law” because it was named after a teenager (Matt Epling) who killed himself after being the victim of anti-gay bullying. But now, the same bill could be used to allow that treatment to continue unabated.

It’s not just gay students who would suffer, either. Atheists, Jews, teens who are pro-choice, kids who support comprehensive sex education — they could all face similar abuse at the hands of Christian bullies — and this law lets it happen without punishment.

State Senator Gretchen Whitmer (a Democrat) couldn’t believe this was happening and spoke out against the amended bill in this passionate and powerful speech:

“As passed today,” said Whitmer, “bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”

She said later in the video, “This is worse than doing nothing. It’s a Republican license to bully.”

Meanwhile, all those Christian “family” groups must be wetting their pants in glee.

This is what they’ve wanted for so long. They think it’s perfectly fine to tell gay kids there’s something wrong with them because their faith commands it. It’s pathetic, it’s degrading, and it’s a large part of why so many gay students feel like suicide is the only way out of the situation.

This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. Christians have always had the right to voice their opinions about homosexuality, including inside schools. There’s a difference between saying you disapprove of homosexuality and taking active steps to stop others from acting on that orientation.

Shannon Burgdorf is an atheist and she can’t believe this is happening, either:

The reason we pulled my son out of traditional school and began homeschooling was because of bullying. Why aren’t adults in charge taking this seriously? Why is religious belief STILL untouchable? How many more kids have to live in emotional and/or physical agony or even die because of this bullying behavior?

Why is religion getting a pass?

Bullying is never ok, period. It doesn’t matter if your faith encourages you to treat gay people (or anyone else) as if they’re any less of a human than you are.

The bill now moves to the Michigan House… where the Republicans dominate. Maybe some of them have a heart. I’m not optimistic.

What can you do to help?

Tell Governor Rick Snyder (R) and tell him how you feel.

Tell Speaker of the House Jase Bolger to vote against this travesty.

If you’re in Michigan, tell your local representative to say no to the current bill.

And since most of those things probably won’t make a difference, here’s a better idea. If you see someone getting bullied — by anyone, for any reason — report it. Stop it. Stand up for the victim. That’ll do more to stop harassment than anything the Republicans in Michigan have up their sleeve.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Welte

    Your last paragraph is the most reasonable and powerful in this post.  Stop bullying where it starts.  But we also need to respond with indignation to the representatives you listed in the links above.  Be polite.  Don’t bully.  But hammer them with dissent.

    • Tinker

      I don’t know, I think they should be bullied based on our moral objections. Under this law that would be encouraged.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

        Everyone has different moral objections

  • gski

    Making kids targets, is that what the
    voters in Michigan really wanted?

    • Denis Robert

      Of course, that’s what they wanted… as long as the kids were “undesirables” like, you know, gays or atheists.

    • Anonymous

      Also, Republicans and Christians only care about “the will of the people” if they agree with them

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Bullying is never ok, period.

    I disagree with this very black and white statement.

    • Anonymous

      OK, example??

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        “bullying” could be interpreted in many different ways. Could be done verbally all in good fun at someone’s expense, even to people you consider friends. Or it could be done to people who have their head up their ass and need to be reminded they are human just like everyone else. I’m just saying making a sweeping black and white statement that it’s never okay under any circumstances or any situation is pretty sloppy.

        • Anonymous

          Larry, I will repeat … Bullying is never ok, period.

          Guess you are a bully trying to defend your behavior?

          • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

            ­­

          • Tinker

            guess that was a yes

            • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

              Nope. Your accusations are just groundless and petty. Not worth debating.

              • Lee K

                I have to agree with Larry.  I had an incident back when I was in elementary school where I told a girl I didn’t want to play with her because I was playing a private game with another girl (it was a long, complicated imagination game that had been going on for awhile).  The girl I dismissed was a bit mentally unstable, told the recess teachers, and I was banned from the playground for the rest of the year.  Saying that all bullying is wrong, while allowing the definition to be tweaked (as it always is) is just a recipe for people to get messed with.

                • http://www.anarchic-teapot.net anarchic teapot

                  “allowing the definition to be tweaked”
                  Who was tweaking the definition? Apart from you and Larry, obviously.

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  I never even stated a definition. You did. I used your definition, completely untweaked, along with Bill’s definition as pulled from Dictionary.com. I never attempted to define or tweak it in any way.

        • http://www.anarchic-teapot.net anarchic teapot

          ” Or it could be done to people who have their head up their ass and need to be reminded they are human just like everyone else”

          Do not confuse bullying with education. Bullying is using one’s strength or power to hurt, frighten or intimidate others.

          Bullying is never OK, period.

          • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

            Occupy wall-street is a big collective strength intimidating the people working in the big banks. Even to the point of causing harm (at least financially).

            According to this definition of bully, Occupy Wall Street activists could be considered bullies.

            I tend to stay away from strictly stating that anything is NEVER okay no matter what. There’s nothing wrong with assessing each situation before deciding whether it’s right or wrong.

            • Denis Robert

              Considering that the Banks are the real power in this society, and that the people in the “Occupy” movements are the ones being bullied, your assertion is pretty ridiculous. “Occupy” is equivalent to standing up to the bullies, not to bullying itself.

              • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                That’s certainly one way of looking at it. But all those people occupying cities all across the world is very powerful and very intimidating. Which does fit into that definition of bully. That term can be flipped both ways. You’re just being contradictory if you stick to thinking “bullying is never okay no matter what… except when I don’t consider it as bullying.” Can’t the religious nuts just use the same excuse?

            • http://www.anarchic-teapot.net anarchic teapot

              Derailing tactics typical of trolling.

              If OWS were bullying, that would be wrong. However, peaceful protesters being attacked by riot police does not correspond to any definition of bullying.

              • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                But you don’t deny that OWS does fit into your definition of bully. Interesting.

                And calling me a troll just because you don’t like what I have to say? What I’m saying may not be popular but hey… I’m not wrong.

                • http://www.anarchic-teapot.net anarchic teapot

                  “But you don’t deny that OWS does fit into your definition of bully. Interesting.”
                  I didn’t think it necessary, since I have strongly implied their actions are NOT bullying.

                  “Calling me a troll and deflecting just because you don’t like what I have to say is the only derailing tactic happening here.”

                  That is a classic application of the “You”re being hostile” tactic http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#hostile

                  Dawn take you and be stone to you

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  I’m not claiming it be a marginalized person or calling you a privileged person… I don’t see how that description applies to what I’ve said. You are just dismissing what I’ve said by calling me a troll, which is to assume that I’m being what? intellectually dishonest? intentionally trying to annoy you? I’m interested in discussing this, but there’s no point if you’re going to simply dismiss anything I say as a lie.

                  The OWS movement is not about peaceful protesters being attacked by riot police. Surely that is an incident that has happened, but that’s not what the movement is about. It is still a large gathering of people who refuse to leave, intimidating the small outnumbered people who are rich and greedy. It is bullying, and your reply was nothing more than deflective of that point.

            • http://anarchic-teapot.net/ anarchic teapot

              Occupy Wall Street, whatever the merits of the movement, were hardly bullies. For that they would have needed to be bigger and stronger than the (heavily guarded) banks and police force combined.

              I don’t recall seeing many cops being ,pepper-sprayed at point-blank range, or bank clerks being carried away by colleagues as blood streamed down their faces.

        • Secret Agent Woman

          ” all in good fun at someone’s expense”?  Seriously?  If it is at someone’s expense, as bullying ALWAY is, it is never all in good fun.  

          • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

            Why not? I’ve joked with my friends, made jokes at their expense. Mocked them. And they’ve done the same to me. It’s just fun. The key is not to take everything so seriously.

            • Anonymous

              That’s not bullying. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

              Bullying intentionally hurts people. There is nothing “good-natured” about it

              • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                I’ll refer you to my OWS analogy above. Not that you’ll read it… Feels like you just want to be dismissive rather than discuss this.

                • Bill

                  from Dictionary.com:
                  1.  a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people 6.  to hurt, intimidate, or persecute (a weaker or smaller person), esp to make him do somethingA bank is not a person or people– it is an institution.  No one is being PERSONALLY bullied– the CEOs do not let the OWS people personally harangue them or push them over.  Are you suggesting that the prostesters have more power than the banks?  Also, bullying is ordinarily understood to be something demeaning, something hurtful, something unfairly attacking the character of a weaker, smaller person.  Your logic is being twisted to make a point, and you’ve decided to win this argument, no matter what contradictory evidence is presented.

                • Lee K

                  I think this could be cleared up if people accepted the fact that, in schools, what will happen is that people who are not doing anything wrong will be ACCUSED of bullying and often punished.  I’m still in school, and I’ve seen that happen.  A lot.  Teachers are afraid of getting in trouble and they get into a lot less if they just suspend first and ask questions later.

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  OWS is not primarily about banks. They call themselves the 99% because what they’re fighting against is the richest 1% of PEOPLE who hog all the wealth and take none of the punishment for bad behavior. They are intimidating a smaller group. 99% vs 1%. And they want those rich snobs to be hurt financially. Objectively they do fit that definition.

                  “Also, bullying is ordinarily understood to be something demeaning,
                  something hurtful, something unfairly attacking the character of a weaker, smaller person.”
                  Perhaps, but that is not the definition of bullying. I’m just trying to be as objective as possible. Redefining or clarifying the word “bully” to lean more in favor of your opinion is the real twisting of logic to make a point. Lee K put it perfectly earlier:

                  Saying that all bullying is wrong, while allowing the definition to be
                  tweaked (as it always is) is just a recipe for people to get messed
                  with.

                  If you tweak the definition even a little to be biased in your favor, what’s stopping any homophobic religious nut from doing the same?

                  This is why I don’t like to judge concepts (such as bullying) as plain right or wrong. There’s always different circumstances and you never know what odd situation might come up. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about it before judging it.

            • GentleGiant

              Yeah, that’s not bullying, that’s teasing. It’s a whole other ball game.
              I tease my friends a lot too, I never bully them (as that would imply me wanting to hurt them in some way – whether physically or emotionally).

  • Charles Black

     So are they going to rename the law “Matt’s Unsafe School Law?”
    Its bad enough that gay students, non-religious students & other religions such as Jews, Muslims & Hindus get bullied because they aren’t Christian. No whats really appalling here is that the bullies are getting rewarded for their behaviour.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that Matt Epling’s dad has spoken out against the law, which he had spent years working on before Republicans turned it from an anti-bullying to a pro-bullying law:

    Today, he called the law as it stands “a time bomb,” adding that the
    change created a loophole that allowed students to use their religion to justify bullying another. “I think it fails the memory of Matt,” he said. “We cannot go backward and say, in any way, shape or form, in a piece of legislation that it is OK under religious grounds to harass or harm your fellow student. And that’s what they’ve done.”

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/Parenting/license-bully-backlash-lbgt-victims-father-matt-epling/story?id=14885102#.TrUeKbKOeQM

  • Aaronross

    When I was in Middle School about three years ago I carried a Bible during school.

    I was laughed at, pushed, shoved, challenged to fight (even though I was well able to defend myself I would not strike back) and harrassed.

    As a senior, the punks don’t attack me anymore, but I am wondering about somthing.

    Was I bullied?  Or does  any of that count as bullying?

    • Seth

      Yes, you were bullied.

    • Scott

      OF COURSE. NO DOUBT. 

    • Semipermeable

      Of course you were bullied. 

      Bullying is wrong, and school teachers should be able to stop it to the best of their ability. That is the entire point of this post. 

      It was wrong that you were bullied, shoved, and pushed for carrying a bible, but it would be equally wrong for you to use that bible to bully others who it does not condone. 

      It’s not a very hard concept.

  • Aaronross

    I see that posts are being deleted.

    Nothing wrong with that, except in pretending that don’t.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Might be a Disqus issue. I’m not deleting anything

      • Gyldenkam

        The main page showed 0 comments to this article for a short while (after I had read the first few that were posted), could be a glitch.

        • Rich Wilson

          That’s standard.  The comments are loaded after the main page.  The main page comes from patheos, and the comments come from the disqus server.  So if disqus is under heavy load due to people commenting on totally different sites, the comment load on HERE can take a while.  Especially if there are more comments.

          I’ve had comments fail to post in the past as well.  

  • Theo Bracco

    I have a deeply held moral conviction that Christians are deluded and cannot think properly.  Thus I have now a law that allows me to tell them that to their face. (sarcasm ends)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

      Unless that is part of a sincere religious belief, you do not have a law that allows that. Sorry. You have to be the better man.

    • Barry

      They are very deluded and religion needs to be banned.

  • Vince Winkler

    This law would allow Muslim students with a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” to call all Christian girls whores if too much skin is exposed. I will be emphasizing this in my email to Governor Snyder.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Or atheists from interrupting the daily pledge of Allegiance with “NOT!” just after  “under God”?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

        Atheism isn’t a faith, it’s a lack of belief, so it wouldn’t protect them from anything. In fact atheists would be in as more danger, as they would be targets for every theistic group, but not be allowed to engage in reprisals. As for ‘interrupting’ the pledge? I really don’t consider stating ‘not’ as interupting. The original text of the pledge did not contain ‘under God’ and in it’s present form is not a pledge to the Country. It actually provides an ‘out’ for people who believe that their country does not act ‘under God,’ so once you don’t believe that the U.S. acts with the will of God, you are exempt from the pledge.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          The belief there is no God still qualifies as a “sincerely held religious belief”, as far as the statute in question and case law seem to go.

          Also, you might want to review the Gobitis and Barnette cases; the exemption isn’t because of religion (which basis was rejected), but because the government is forbidden to try and compel speech, particularly political speech.

    • Tinker

      And don’t forget that they just brought back stoning

    • Gus Snarp

      Or anyone of any religion to bully Christian students because of their own “deeply held religious beliefs”. We definitely need to make it clear how bullying of Christians can result from this as well as of atheists, homosexuals, Jews, and Muslims. That, of course, is the whole point of separation of Church and State, and why smart religious people should be on out side on this.

      • Barry

        There are no smart religious people -period!

  • Cheryl Overley

    All Michiganders must urge their representatives to block any anti-bullying bill that sanctions bigotry based bullying AND…
    * Doesn’t enumerate protected classes (N.B: these are not EXCLUSIVELY protected classes BUT in the past ten years states whose anti-bullying laws include enumerated classes have decreased incidents of bullying as well as bullying motivated truancy and drop outs.  Those without them see no change.),
    * Doesn’t provide anti-bullying training to staff,
    *  Doesn’t mandate reporting, and
    * Doesn’t hold administrators accountable.

    Please share this with your Michigan friends and family AND sign up for action alerts through Equality Michigan.  Emily Dievendorf, their Policy Director, is the key coordinating person at the capitol working across groups for anti-bullying legislation. 
    http://equalityfederation.salsalabs.com/o/35018/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=48

    Thank you.

    ~Cheryl Overley

  • Killiane

    bully (as a verb)- – to harm or intimidate those who are weaker

  • Ed-words

    The LATE Andy Rooney would have attacked this bill.

    (One of his book chapters – - -”Faith In Reason”).

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “Jesus wants me to tell you to BURN IN HELL,  STUPID LITTLE FAGGOT!”
    “Jesus wants me to SHOVE YOU AROUND!”
    “Jesus wants me to PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE!”
    “Jesus wants me to KICK YOU IN THE RIBS!”
    “Jesus wants me to STOMP ON YOUR BALLS!”

    “Yes, Principal Jones, I sincerely believe that Jesus wanted me to do those things. Thank you Principal Jones, and yes, I’ll try to not leave so much blood in the hall next time. Sorry about that. “

    • Harry Purdy

      What a shit your Jesus is.You would have had a ball in Hitlers youth.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Hi Harry, just to be clear, that’s parody.

        • TheBlackCat

          Technically I think it is satire.

  • Anonymous

    CFI’s blasphemy campaign explains that criticizing or questioning ideas or beliefs is acceptable and that attacking the ‘person’ is not. I’m afraid this pro-bully act, will backfire as they probably planned and which will result in an anti-blasphemy campaign that will be supported with the likes of UU’s and other liberals which will effectively protect the ideas and beliefs of those on right beyond any criticizing or questioning. You heard it hear first!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

      No it does not. It provides a very clear exemption for people with ‘sincere religious belief.’ It’s truly amazing how conservatives plug their ears and turn their backs on the constitution and individual freedoms, when a proposed law benefits them, or their religion. Religious belief doesn’t belong in schools. Prayer has never cured a single epidemic or taught a single child how to survive. Speech, including stupid speech like religious speech are protected. I don’t like this targeting of ‘liberals’ as running anti-blasphemy campaigns? Unless you’re european, where Liberals are conservative and conservatives are liberal. Liberals do not restrict. Liberals build institutions of learning, and seek to elevate through free expression. I believe the best mantra for the liberal ideal is this; “No law should ever be made to restrict liberty, except when you use your liberty to restrict the liberty of others.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/grays42 Brandon Lawler

    The codification and endorsement of religious bullying deserves nothing less than universally withering condemnation and scorn.

  • happycynic

    Here’s what I wrote to my own district House representative. Perhaps I’ll send an “I’m very disappointed in you” letter to my state senator as well… Keep in mind I wasn’t trying to score points here, I was trying to change minds.

    Rep. Matt Huuki,I realize this is long, and you probably get a lot of e-mail. But please take the time to read it.As you probably know, there’s bill going from the senate to the house (Senate Bill No. 137), that deals with bullying issues in Michigan schools. The inspiration for the bill, which was originally proposed by senate democrats, was the suicide of Matt Epling, a gay student who killed himself after a rather uncivilized amount of bullying from his peers.From what I can tell, the version that your party passed through the senate is effectively toothless; there are no consequences spelled out for breaking the policy on bullying, no training for teachers or students on how to prevent bullying, and no requirement for schools to report incidents. That would make the bill an irrelevant bit of political posturing, which aside from wasting time is fine by me. Except for this one little exemption written in:”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.”That line of text allows for anyone to excuse harassment and bullying as long as they can pass it off as a statement of sincere religious belief or moral conviction. Obviously, this provision was added so that christian students, parents, and faculty could still express their opinion that homosexuality is a corrupt behavior in front of homosexual students and not be called bullies for it. Which I don’t agree with, but that’s besides the point.From a quick read-over of your bio, I saw that you have two daughters. If they’re of school-going age, then under this policy, someone with a sincerely held conviction that women and girls should have their heads covered in public (say, a devout muslim, or a very conservative christian sect), could pointedly remind your daughters every time they went out uncovered that they’re being immodest and promiscuous. Looked at another way, your daughters’ biology teacher going over evolution in the classroom could, as a part of his sincerely held beliefs on religion and his moral convictions, inform the class that people who believe in intelligent design or creationism are delusional and blinded by their faith.The Michigan Senate has passed you, the House, a double-edged sword. Sure, it can cut away objections to the “homosexual agenda”. But it also would protect hurtful speech from all comers, be they Westboro Baptist-type religious hecklers, or atheistic polemics insisting that religious belief is a delusion. This bill does nothing to discourage bullying, and instead encourages people who sincerely believe in the hurtful things they say to just lay it out on Michigan students. As your constituent, I’m hoping you’ll vote against this bill, for your daughters and for every other student in the district.                          –XXXXXXXXXX, concerned constituent.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

      As a Michigan resident, I’m sure you’re aware of how well your legislature listens to it’s citizens.

  • Anonymous

    Not surprising. The Christofascists demands the same “religious exemptions” in all kinds of other laws. For example when it comes to anti-discrimination laws. The Rethugs in New Hampshire are proposing a useless Civil Union bill that would allow anyone to ignore it for religious reasons.

    People really need to start speaking up against this nonsense in a more general way. Enough with the deference and special rights for religion. What they do in churches is one thing, but in the real world they need to follow the law

  • Rich Wilson

    With a sincerely held religious belief clause, anything is permissible.

    • FIRE the GOP

      I agree , we can use this bill to bully christians including Phelps and fundies. 

       It says “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”. 

      We can say that we have a deeply held beief and moral conviction that the christian religion is based on hate and lies. 

      That it encourages incest rape, rape, murder of children by their parents and gencoide.  That I deeply believe that this religon is in dangering the lives of American citizens and needs to be consider a cult.

      In other words use this law to turn the tables on them.

      Phelps clan shows up well we can  use this law to our advantage after all we believe we are doing right.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

        Only if you have a God to back you up. Otherwise, you’re going to have to just bite your tongue.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      It seems to contradict all speech restrictions on campus.

    • Barry

      You go to be fucking kidding me asshole.. Nothing of the kind is permissible. Jesus sucks ass in hell. What a bastard!

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to Gretchen.  It’s about time someone stands up to these fuckers who want a license to bully gay people.  Bullying is not acceptable on any level.  Any efforts to skirt around and give anyone an excuse to bully is just plain wrong.

  • Kathy Orlinsky

    I’d like to see the kids in Michigan schools stage a mock ‘bully-in’ (with all the kids’ pre-knowledge and willing participation) where Muslims, Christians, Pagans, Atheists, Hindus etc. all call each other names and then tell the adults around them, “What?  Those are my deeply held religious convictions.”

  • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

    This law absolutely misses the point. It’s much easier to teach a plain old bully to be a nice person than it is to teach a religious bigot to stop being a religious bigot.

  • Anonymous

    This just means anyone can make up any excuse to bully someone. If they allow
    religious excuses, then they are under no obligation to prove any
    justification at all. It’s just their opinion that someone needed to be insulted or bullied.
    Jesus (at least the character in the bible) said
    to love your enemies, but some Christians could use other parts of the
    Bible as an excuse to bully and harass others, cherry-picking as usual.
    Would each religion or
    sect or denomination have to provide their scriptural or doctrinal
    evidence to support their actions? Or can they just say their god was telling them to do it? What about atheists who feel a deep
    moral obligation and conviction to intervene when they see Christians
    bullying a gay student?
    This is just a rat’s nest of crap. The Republicans in Michigan just want
    to make it seem to their scared fundie constituents that they are
    defending their “rights” as Christians, but since when does that mean
    they have the right to bully? Is it that hard to discover the line
    between free speech and bullying? Maybe it is in some cases.
    It seems the
    big problem is that our society gives a reverent, approving pass to
    people who believe nonsense based on no evidence, and who also believe
    it’s their sacred duty to tell everyone about what they believe.
    Proselytizing is protected under free speech, and they think
    “informing” nonbelievers that they are an abomination and will be
    tortured for eternity is just a caring revelation of the “truth” meant
    to change others’ behavior to “save” them. And that’s probably what the
    Republicans think they’re protecting. They don’t consider that many people
    treat their religion like their political party or their favorite
    football team, and can act like mindless thugs to people in the “out”
    group. It’s primitive, unreasoned behavior.
    We need to be the voice of reason and be persistent in these matters, or
    thuggery disguised as virtue will come hunting for the dissenters, as
    it has in so many other places and in so many other times.

  • Anonymous

    Who would Jesus bully?

    Thanks for blogging about this, Hemant. As a former bullying victim I feel very strongly about this. And with this outrage coming on the heels of the video showing a Texas family court judge whipping the tar out of his disabled daughter, I’ve been feeling pretty sick at heart lately.

    • Guest

      No one. That’s the thing. Whoever is calling themselves a Christian and “bullying in the name of Jesus” is smearing his name! True Christians, like Jesus himself, love everyone no matter what. If someone is tormented by homosexual thoughts, no true Christian “hates” them for it. They should be loving just as Jesus would. Not bullying.

      • Rich Wilson

        If someone is tormented by homosexual thoughts

        The only people tormented by homosexual thoughts are the ones convinced to feel guilty about being gay by people telling them they’re sinning.  Being gay is part of someone.  If you truly love them, you’ll love all of them.

      • Anonymous

        Hi, I appreciate that you are disavowing the hatred of all too many of your christian peers. However, first of all, you are committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. Also, there is nothing inherently “tormenting” about homosexual thoughts. Some people suffer needless guilt because they have been falsely told that being gay is evil.

        Finally, if you are saying, “hate the sin, love the sinner”, I have to say I think that is a crock. Right from the word go, you are presuming to stand in judgment over the other person, to label them a sinner, to claim the moral high ground over them. That’s not love, it’s condescension. Real love means accepting the other person, not judging them as morally inferior to you just because they are different.

      • Barry

        Trouble is most so called Christians are hypocrites and full of hate

  • Anonymous

    I would hope that harassment charges could still be filed.
    I wish I could say I’m in disbelief that Republicans passed such a bill but I stopped putting things past Republicans a long time ago. They’re a party of hate, IMO.

  • Miko

    Homeschooling is indeed the only answer in this circumstance, unfortunately.

    The problem with public schools is that they aren’t responsive to the needs of individuals since you’re forced at gunpoint to pay them either way.  What we need to do is eliminate the public schools so that the threat of taking your children somewhere else (or homeschooling them) is something that the schools would have to take seriously.  As this example shows, government really just ends up encouraging bullying, since government itself is based on nothing but the use of force, coercion, and violence to advance the interests of the strong at the expense of everyone else.  If you refuse to recognize that government itself is the problem, you should be prepared for a long succession of disappointing bills like this one, because the government ain’t on your side and its goals are not your goals.

    • Anonymous

       Oh for fuck’s sake… trust a randroid to exploit this tragedy for his own agenda of greed and apathy. Thanks asshole, I didn’t think I could feel any sicker, but now I do.

    • Ben

      The problem Miko, is Rethuglican/Chrito-fascist lawmakers, not public schools. It’s not that schools under their charge are incapable of responding to individual needs because they’re government funded, it’s because anti-empatheitic shitheads like you and conservative lawmakers actively work to ensure they can’t.

    • Anonymous

      Private schools are under even less control and supervision – especially because most of them are religious. They can get away with any bullshit they want and no one ever does anything.

      And there are examples of public schools that successfully combat bullying. It can be done

    • Donalbain

      Yes, education was so much better before the state was involved. The key to a well educated population is obviously to have uneducated parents teaching their kids. I have seen the light. Praise Rand!

    • Qcirish

      I’m sorry but this is completely unrealistic.  Not all government favors this kind of action.  And may I ask, who voted these ninnies in?  I’m Christian, but I don’t buy any of what this law says.  It’s a cruel law, made by fearful and cruel people.  They fear their power is diminishing…that more reasonable people with more reasonable points of view are taking over (and I hope they are).  Fear drives so many things….fear of any kind of “others”…religions, cultures, lifestyles.  So that those who fear and have any kind of power will use what they have to put down the “others”.  This is law has no real Christian beliefs in it.  I’d rather not be lumped in with the crazies and kooks if the rest of you don’t mind.  Getting rid of public schools is ridiculous.  Do you know what this country looked like before there were public schools?  Only the wealthy could be educated.  You really want to go back to that?  We’d be in great shape then wouldn’t we?  Yes, we could still compete on a world stage.  Get real.  As for being forced at gunpoint to pay..I’m basically forced at gunpoint to pay whatever the oil companies decide to charge me for gas, whatever the grocery stores charge me for food. 
      And as a last comment, it’s so nice to see that having no religious beliefs whatsoever makes people so much more compassionate…NOT!

  • Anonymous

    There is another thing you can do to speak out against bullying: watch this YouTube video, posted by the father of Matt Epling, the boy who committed suicide as a result of being bullied, and whom the law was supposed to honor. Then post your own video in support of real protection for bullying victims.

  • Happy Camper

    I have to ask the obvious question. Who would/has to lobby for an exception to the bully law?
    The bullies themselves of course! There is NO justification to bully someone to the brink of breaking. The ironic thing is that the loopholes the republicans voted for this travesty put their own families in greater danger.

    • Barry

      The Republicans and the religious right are a disgrace. May they Jesus, God and the party burn in the deepest part of hell!

  • Steve

    How on Earth did Michigan (and so many other states) give this much power to a party full of Leona Helmsleys? When I was a kid, this kind of asshatery was the purview of the John Birch Society and the KKK… now it is mainstream and we have ‘adults’ in legislatures making bullying a protected right. We have to find some way of telling these creatures that there is something fundamentally wrong with their worldview. My guess is that there is not a majority in Michigan that thinks it is OK to let kids bully other kids. It is becoming apparent that the real silent majority needs to get off their asses and call these people what they are – nasty and crazy. They also need to vote. The only reason the rethugs have a chance to enact this kind of legislation is that their base is better organized than the nice people.

  • Mrs. B.

    I’m late to the party on this thread, but I just posted this question on my blog and thought maybe someone here would have an answer.

    Public schools are supposed to fall under the separation of church and state mandate. This being the case, is it even legal for the Michigan legislature to pass laws stating that public schools may sanction religion-based intolerance aimed at any of their students? In other words, aren’t they saying that religion trumps human rights from now on in the public school system? Couldn’t the case be made that this is what they have effectively done with this piece of legislation?

    • Cheryl Overley

      “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 & parent or guardian.”

      It’s not an unconstitutional favoring religion over non-religion due to the phrase “or moral conviction.”  Of course that doesn’t mean the legislation doesn’t seek to turn the schools into a Lord of the Flies scenario. 

      I live in Michigan and was working to EFFECTIVE anti-bullying legislation passed before this travesty was added on and passed.  As I talk about it now there is a HUGE difference in how people respond.  Before they were mostly polite listening for me to finish with the rare occasional person taking action.  Now folks are aware and ready to be mobilized effectively to fight to protect our kids.  THAT gives me hope.

      • Mrs. B.

        Thank you Cheryl ~

        I live in Michigan also and wrote to Senator Levin late last night expressing my disgust with this piece of legislation. I know he’s a sympathetic ear.  I’ll probably get one off to Senator Stabenow today.

        Dealing with Republican legislators in this state is like talking to brick walls,  response-wise and IQ-wise, and I don’t even bother with them anymore.

        I hadn’t really separated out the “moral conviction” aspect from “religious belief,” but can see that whoever crafted this piece of crap knew what they were doing to cover their asses. This is actually worse. This opens the door to allow bullying of interracial couples if you find that offensive –  literally anyone you find morally repugnant. And we all know how tolerant and understanding some middle-school and high school kids can be.

        Michigan: Welcome to 1930!

        • Cheryl Overley

          So glad to connect with another Michigander.  :-)

          Please go to Equality Michigan to sign up for action alerts.  Their policy director, Emily Dievendorf, is the boots on the ground person at the capitol coordinating anti-bullying action across diverse coalitions.  I invited her to our local atheist/humanist group to speak and she gave us valuable information about the legislative attack on the LGBT community and how we can effectively lobby our legislators.  Her action alerts have helped me immensely clearly communicating to people the harm, what we need for effective change, and how folks can work effectively to bring it about.  Without her training I’d be a passionate but ignorant and ineffective.

            http://equalityfederation.salsalabs.com/o/35018/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=48

        • Barry

          I sure hope you succeed. This is more religious hatred and hypocrisy.

    • Barry

      That’s what the religious right assholes do. They justify prejudice in the “name of God” God can kiss my ass.

  • Rich Wilson

    A claim that the house is backing away from that bill http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-detroit/house-republicans-back-away-from-michigan-senate-anti-bully-law

  • Anonymous

    “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.”

    I’m surprised no one has commented on this directly. This bill legalizes bullying from faculty and staff! If a teacher bullies students because of strictly held religious beliefs, that’s okay now? It’s okay for homeroom moms and dads, acting as school volunteers, to bully children now? “No, Jimmy, you don’t get cookies and juice today. Or tomorrow. Or ever. And you can’t do anything about it because my strictly held religious beliefs–and the law–say that I can. Your friends are good little Christian soldiers. That’s why they get treats.”

    I’m sure there are other laws that try to combat teachers bullying students, but this language really muddies the water.

  • Rich Wilson

    Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/help-michigan-students-stop-the-license-to-bully-bill

  • Guest

    This bill makes me insanely happy I graduated from my Michigan High School in 2010. As an Atheist I took my share of abuse in an all-white, mostly Christian community. I got “Devil,” “Satan worshiper,” and “lesbian” (Despite my having a boyfriend) carved onto my locker every year. I was one of about 10 pro-LGBT rights kids. I got shoved down stairs, shoved into lockers, kicked, punched, and verbally abused. I took it all and only snapped when a football player cornered me and told me “I bet your Daddy rapes you every day, and THAT’S why you hate men! And THAT’S why you turned to Satan! You fucking DEMON!”
    I snapped because my Father is a good man. He would NEVER do that.
    So because I shoved the Football player and threatened to punch him if he ever insulted my family again. I got suspended for 3 days, and had to get a “mental evaluation” by a psychiatrist before they’d let me come back to school. The football player got told not to say “fuck.” I also got a stern talking-to from the Principal about why I should “tone down” my religion.
    This bill is complete and utter shit with the Republican changes. I will NOT be putting any future children I have into the public school system if this bill is still around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

    This also opens up bullying, and religious reprisals for people of all faiths – excepting those with no faith. That’s right. The only ones forced by this law to ‘turn their cheek’ so to speak, would be non-believers and agnostics, as they have no religion to turn to to justify their behavior. I really don’t think very many atheists are responsible for bullying gay students.
    The only exception would be if a theistic teacher or faculty member was present for a beating, and endorsed the non-believing student’s behavior.

  • Barry

    Jesus and the Michigan Senate can kiss my ass in hell. Only the religious freaky right can justify this in the “name of Jesus” Republican bastards are the lowest of low life’s.
    Only the so called Christians could come up with this crap.Republicans really do suck!

  • heavymetalman

    Well, I’ll just pick a religion with different beliefs than fundamentalist Christians and then, slam their idiotic brains. Let them prove that I don’t have a “sincere belief” in that religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hilary.georgia Hilary Georgia Millet-Clark

    Wouldn’t Jesus be proud? These heart-felt Christians are working so hard to make sure children will suffer in his name. That more children will join him in heaven when the pain gets too bad and they take their own lives to escape from it all. Isn’t that just wonderful? Isn’t that so much a part of what he stood for?

    Oh wait. There’s this book I read once, you know the one that claims to be written by people who actually knew him? Can’t seem to remember what it was called just at the moment. Began with a ‘B’ though. You know the one I mean? Anyway, there was a part – well, more than one part actually – where it seemed like Jesus was against hurting people with action or even with words. And there were parts where he was nice to people other people didn’t like and wasn’t happy with others for being mean to them.

    I wonder if any of these so devoted Christians have ever read that book. I seems to me that it might just have some relevancy here. But then, I AM only a university educated woman. It’s not like I have a brain with which to judge these things.

  • compugraphd

    B”H

    While I believe in G-d (actually, more accurately, I trust in G-d), that’s my faith, that’s my belief, that’s my religion. I don’t believe in pushing my beliefs onto anyone. I don’t even believe in pushing my style of Judaism on other Jews. Add to that, what sort of stupid people think that they will get people to feel as they do by bullying them? I can’t fathom people feeling they need to push their beliefs on others. If your beliefs are true, it’ll come out eventually.

    This sort of goes with my feelings about Gay marriage — if your religion says it’s a sin, then don’t marry someone of your gender. My religion says you can’t drive on Saturday or eat pork. So I don’t drive on the Sabbath or eat pork. I don’t push for laws outlawing driving from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday or laws prohibiting eating pork. This is the USA — we have freedom of religion. Pushing your beliefs on others is, IMHO, anti-American and unpatriotic.

    I would like to add that it seems to me from the little I know about Jesus, that he would have been mortified to know that people would try to spread his words by bullying others. So it seems to me that these people are not only anti-American but bad Christians.

  • Alan Cook

    THE INQUISITION was not Jesus speaking, but it was a Christiam organization that invented it. We thought the Inquisition was finally over…instead it just moved to Michigan schools


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