More Legally Mandated Religious Privilege

More Legally Mandated Religious Privilege December 30, 2014

My friend Mike Slomka pointed this out the other day when he had to look up Michigan law on the circumstances under which teenagers can drive on a graduated driver’s license after outside of the approved hours in which they can operate a vehicle. The law enshrines religious privilege in it:

Graduated Driver’s License Level 2 Restrictions

Here are the Graduated Driver License Level 2 restrictions that are now in effect:

1. Shall not operate a motor vehicle between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except when:

driving to or from or in the course of employment;

driving to or from an authorized activity; or

accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian…

Authorized activity means any of the following:

(a) A school or a school-sanctioned event or activity. School means a public or private school, including a home school.

(b) A sporting event or activity, or extracurricular event or activity, that is not school-sanctioned but that is part of an official sports league or association or an official extracurricular club, or that is paid for as a service offered by a business specializing in those events or activities or training for those events or activities.

(c) A class or program of vocational instruction offered by a college, community college, nonprofit association, or unit of government or by a business specializing in vocational training.

(d) An event or activity sponsored by a religious organization that is tax-exempt under federal law.

So if you have a teenager with a level 2 driver’s license (the last level before you’re a completely legal driver), they can violate the legally-mandated driving curfew to go to a religious event or activity, but not to, say, a Neil DeGrasse Tyson lecture. Or a library. Or a CFI meeting. All animals are equal here at Animal Farm, some are just more equal than others.

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  • But you miss the point! If they are driving to an ‘activity sponsored by a religious organization’ they are going to be driving safely and soberly and will never ever have an accident or break a law.

    Obvious really…

  • petemoulton

    Really, Richard? Have you forgotten The Girl With The Faraway Eyes? IIRC, Mick ran 20 red lights in the lord’s honor…

  • blf

    [I]f you have a teenager with a level 2 driver’s license…, they can violate the legally-mandated driving curfew to go to a religious event or activity, but not to, say, a Neil DeGrasse Tyson lecture.

    Not convinced by that example: It shouldn’t be too difficult for the hypothetical Neil DeGrasse Tyson lecture to be put into category (a) — “A school or a school-sanctioned event or activity…” (my emphasis). I presume most science teachers (e.g.), would have no problems in sanctioning such attendance.

    That is not to say there isn’t a good example of fairy tale privilege.

    I am perhaps a bit more concerned about having an unsupervised not-fully-licensed driver on the roads (esp. in the dark!); however, not knowing anything about the strictness (or, perhaps more typically in USAlienstani, laxness) of the licensing / testing, this concern could be a minor point.

  • dcsohl

    School includes home-schooling? So that means if you’re a home-schooling parent you can give your kid permission to drive at night, but everybody else can’t (unless they go with the kid, that is)?

  • John Pieret

    Don’t some churches pride themselves on getting their congregants “drunk in the spirit of the Lord”? Sounds like a damn dangerous place to be sending a teenage driver!

  • Sports?

  • It’s OK, officer, I’m a Rastafarian. Just on my way over to my dealer’s to pick up an ounce of skunk weed for tomorrow morning’s religious ceremony.

    Is he tax exempt? Yeah, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t pay any taxes.

  • Loqi

    What if the driver took communion?

    “Sir, have you been drinking this morning?”

  • Pierce R. Butler

    How often does, say, Neil deG T give lectures between 10 pm and 5 am?

    That may be, otoh, prime time for Satanic Temple events! (They hate to schedule things in conflict with Tyson talks…)

  • Matzo Ball Soup

    @blf #3: “School-sanctioned” might mean it has to be explicitly sponsored by the school itself. Like if the school is putting it on, or the students are required to go to it for a class. I could easily imagine the law being interpreted in such a way that a high-school student going to a lecture at a local university merely out of their own interest doesn’t fall into this category. (IANAL, though.)

  • yoav

    Can’t they just let Jesus take the wheel, he’s over 21.

  • blf

    Matzo Ball Soup@10, Read the clause again. It says (my emphasis) “School or school-sanctioned…”. The emphasized first part, “school”, rather clearly covers events sponsored by school (esp. if attendance is mandatory). The weak point in my@3 is a science teacher recommending (“sanctioning”) an event could be construed to not be covered by the second part (school-sanctioned) on the rather obvious grounds an individual teacher, or even an entire department, is not a school.

    I said nothing about a group of students attending strictly out of their own interest. Don’t conflate that with a teacher, department, or school sanctioning (recommending) the event. I concur the law does not seem to cover the “out of own interest” case, but suggest a sufficiently-motivated group of students could ask / obtain the necessary “sanctioning” from a friendly teacher — or do the more obvious and probably(?) simpler thing of arranging for a ride.

  • Saad

    Loqi, #8

    What if the driver took communion?

    They would check the driver’s BBC (Blood Blood Concentration).

  • Beth

    I agree with blf. A creationist-evolutionist debate could qualify too.

    I really don’t see this as an example of religious privilege. It seems to me that it’s only privileging it to the extent that educational activities and athletic activities are also privileged. Why is this a problem for you?