Children Speak Out Against Michigan’s ‘Religious License to Bully’ Law

Michigan state senator (and Democrat) Gretchen Whitmer has already spoken out against her Republican colleagues’ changes to anti-bullying legislation which would allow exemptions for people with “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The legislation is now in the House, where it will hopefully be corrected.

In the meantime, Whitmer is featured in a new video in which she reads letters from children urging her to get that exemption out of there. Bullying is bullying no matter who does it, and religious people who torment gay classmates deserve the same punishment as anyone else. Your Bible shouldn’t make you immune from punishment.

If you live in Michigan, please contact your representatives and tell them to support real anti-bullying legislation, not any kind that prevents certain children from getting away with it because they have a Bible in their hands.

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.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    …prevents certain children from *being punished for it*, you mean? :)

  • Anonymous

    This would be inconceivable in the UK, we have such strong discrimination laws that they are often abused for gain by the unscrupulous* but better a few cheats getting monetary compensation than numerous suicides because the legislation wasn’t in place to protect the vulnerable.

    * http://www.serial-litigants.com/casestudy.html

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

    I have a couple points I really want to make on this but have a feeling they’d be pretty unpopular and I don’t have the energy to argue about it so I’m just going to keep my mouth shut for once.

    It’s a nice little ad, but honestly it’s not even needed. This exemption is so ridiculous and with the national attention it’s getting there’s no way it’s going to hold up very long.

    • Mrs. B.

      I can appreciate just not feeling like arguing about something. Been there myself. But, I would just like to say that forums and blogs and videos like this are the reason bad legislation gets the national attention you mention. Without this attention, that original piece of slime passed by the Michigan Senate could very well have been rammed through as law if our reps thought nobody really cared.

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

        The points I wanted to make were a bit of criticism though. Of the video and the bill. They likely would not be welcome here. I do appreciate people fighting this nonsense religious exemption stuff though. It’s certainly needed so pressure can be placed on the idiots who think it’s a good idea to guide, nurture and teach bullies how to avoid punishment.

    • http://stochasticscientist.blogspot.com/ KathyO

      The problem is that for many people, namely elected Republicans, the exemption was not ridiculous.  Is it less ridiculous than wanting to grant personhood to zygotes?   Mrs. B. is right, we have to call attention to this stuff.

  • Mrs. B.

    Apparently the Michigan House voted on the bill after removing the religious and moral conviction clause. I give a hearty yay!, with reservations. From Huff Po:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/11/michigan-house-passes-ant_n_1088306.html

    “Michigan’s state House passed its own version of an anti-bullying Thursday, smoothing over the language in a bill passed by the Senate last week that sparked a widespread wave of criticism.

    The Senate’s controversial bill included language that some say protect bullies, by prohibiting anti-bullying policies that ban “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The bill, dubbed “Matt’s Safe School Law,” is named after a Michigan teen who committed suicide in 2002 after falling victim to anti-gay bullying.

    The House’s version of the bill doesn’t include the controversial religious language and requires all public, charter and intermediate school districts to implement the policy. The bill passed 88-18 and is also a bipartisan result of the House’s promise to seek a compromise that Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said will “bring everyone to the middle of the road and provide protection to all students.”” (I don’t know if the embedded links are live or not)

    Now the bill goes back to the Senate for approval, and we’ll see if the idiots who crafted the first draft will actually listen to their own constituents on this. I wrote both Levin and Stabenow long emails detailing my outrage. I know that neither of them supported the bill with the offensive language included, but I also know from experience that trying to talk to my district rep, Huizenga, is useless. He’s a tool. My effort would have been circular filed without comment.

    But yes, any other Michiganders out there who care about this issue, please contact your reps and explain that there is never ANY justification to allow bullying of the sort that would continue long enough and be hateful enough to drive a teen to suicide. This is happening way too frequently in this country right now.

    • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

      Levin and Stabenow are both pretty good about answering back, too. I contacted them both about Title X funding and they both got back to me within  2 weeks. I just emailed them about this bill, so I’m waiting to hear back. This legislation is a disgrace.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_55HCGTRPQF6BHC2QWJJ6NLP33M Eleanor

      A key item for Michiganders: 18 members of the House voted against the bill as amended. Who are those 18? Why did they vote the way they did? Maybe they should be recalled (do they have Recall in Michigan?).

      And what are folks in Michigan going to do about the idiots in their Senate who allowed the adding of that language?

      I’ll be curious to see what happens when the amended bill gets back to the Senate.

  • Dark Jaguar

    The language may have been formed to justify religious bullying (which shocks me, as even when I was neck deep in conservative thinking, I don’t recall anyone actually thinking bullying was a good thing), but more to the point, this would effectively justify ALL bullying.  Think about how your average kid acts when confronted.  Some Nelson out there is going to beat up on a kid, get caught, and immediately say “you can’t touch me, I have a firmly held moral conviction that nerds need to be taught a lesson”.  In effect, this anti-bullying legislation, if enacted with that clause, would actually serve to ENABLE bullying of ALL kinds.

    I’m really angry at those who felt the need to protect a bully’s right to gay bash though.  What politician felt that, and would they mind if I assaulted them?  (This is entirely hypothetical to prove a point, not a threat or something I would actually want to do).

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think they consider being constantly told “The Bible says you’re going to hell” as bullying. They just think it’s the truth and they’re obligated to share it

      • Anonymous

        I don’t buy it. It’s like the bullshit “I’m not judging you, it’s God”. No, YOU are judging me, and you don’t get to pretend you’re a nice person in the meantime.

        People who tell gay kids they’re going to Hell are not doing it reluctantly in the hope that they can save them from that fate. If you are deeply concerned about someone, you approach them with compassion and emotionally explain that you’re really worried for them and that you don’t want them to end up in Hell. That’s not the way that goes down, particularly in school. “You’re going to burn in Hell, faggot!” is not an expression of concern, it’s flinging hate and verbal violence at someone while using your religion as a shield. They do it to hurt, not to help.

        • Drew M.

          This is probably the most quoteworthy comment I’ve read in months.

          May I?

          • Anonymous

            Of course! It would be an honor :-)

        • Anonymous

          True, but I didn’t say their motivation is concern in this case. Yeah, there is that sick motivation for evangelicalism, that people are genuinely concerned for people’s souls and so they go out and harass them. But that’s a different matter.

          With the gay thing it’s more like the Bible says it’s wrong. They’ve grown up with that and believe gay people are bad. Yes, they want to hurt them, but in their twisted way, they don’t really consider the consequences of what they’re doing or don’t even realize how much they are really harming people

          • Demonhype

            I wish I could remember where I heard this–maybe a podcast, which would make it either Non-Prophets or FFRF given the time I heard it, but one fundie was making an argument that gays, unbelievers, and the like were actually causing harm to others because when God comes to smite them he will smite the whole town for tolerating them.  Or something to that effect.

            I think they can fully comprehend the extent of the harm they cause.  It’s just that they see a lot of “faggot perverts” commiting suicide to be a net gain for both our society and the Kingdom of God, in that we no longer have a “pervert” running around giving everyone else “teh ghey” (remember, a lot of them seem to think it’s catching somehow, so to them every dead gay is one less disease-carrier).  They bully in the name of God and either their target will convert or die, and either one suits their purposes just fine.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing. The Religious Right’s depravity is seemingly bottomless. A pity that the same can’t be said for their intelligence…

  • Anonymous

    It is shocking to me that there is nothing in place to prevent bullying already.  Are teachers and school counsellors at least trained to recognise and deal with bullying and to support the victims?  Without the support of the law even this is a half measure.  A law that actually exempts some people from bullying is ridiculous and incredibly sad.

  • Charles Black

    How many times do the religious right have to expose themselves as the despicable liars & cheats they are before they are banished into the dustbin of history?
    They aren’t just stupid they are evil to the core.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.worme.94 Jason P Worme

    It is crazy how these people can just use the bible as a shield for their hatred.

  • HurrDurr

    Let’s just make religion illegal already, Imagine how much happier everyone who matters would be.


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