Worshippers of Bully-God seek religious freedom to be bullies

Worshippers of Bully-God seek religious freedom to be bullies November 5, 2011

The state of Michigan has passed a new law saying that some forms of bullying are wrong. But for those in Michigan who believe that the God they worship is an Almighty Bully in the sky, and that this Bully-God requires them to bully others, Michigan says it’s perfectly legal and peachy-keen to keep tormenting others. Especially if those others are sexual or religious minorities.

Just days after a cellphone video emerged showing a gay 15-year-old in Ohio being assaulted by another student, the Michigan Senate passed new anti-bullying legislation, but some say it actually encourages bullying to take place.

Chief among its critics is Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who in a searing floor speech said that the new “Matt’s Safe School Law,” named after a Michigan teen who committed suicide after an anti-gay hazing attack, is meaningless.

Whitmer cites a special exception in the law for bullies who have “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The law also does not address bullying against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying,” said Senator Whitmer. “As passed today, bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”

Kevin Epling, father of the Michigan teen for whom the bill has been named, agrees with Whitmer. His son Matt had syrup and crushed eggs poured over his head by bullies just days before he killed himself.

“This is government-sanctioned bigotry,” Epling told the Detroit Free Press. Epling said he was “ashamed” of the language that was added last- minute.

In a post titled “Why Does Michigan’s Anti-Bullying Bill Protect Religious Tormenters?” Amy Sherman explains why the privilege of legal sanction for bullying others is viewed by the worshippers of the Bully-God as a vital religious freedom:

To understand what happened in Michigan, it’s important to know that social conservatives consider themselves the real victims. At the federal level, they unsuccessfully fought for the inclusion of a provision protecting religious freedom when Congress expanded the definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation. They also strongly oppose legislation that would prevent discrimination against gay individuals in the workplace, charging that such a law would endanger religious freedom. A report on the Christian Broadcasting Network outlined one such concern: “The special protections for gay and transgendered teachers will make it extremely difficult for [public school] districts that might want to remove them from the classroom.”

In other words, social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination. That’s stating it harshly, but it is the underlying belief.

This belief, however, relies on a warped understanding of religious liberty. Freedom of religious expression doesn’t give someone the right to kick the crap out of a gay kid or to verbally torment her. It doesn’t give someone the right to fire a gay employee instead of dealing with the potential discomfort of working with him.

It’s also a highly selective conception of religious liberty. The same religious conservatives who applaud the religious exemption in Michigan’s anti-bullying bill would be appalled if it protected a Muslim student in Dearborn who defended bullying a Christian classmate by saying he considered her an infidel.

Again we see that religious hegemons arguing for legal and cultural privileges for their own sect tend to be wholly incapable of any kind of shoe-on-the-other-foot thinking. Whatever you choose to call that capacity — moral intelligence, imagination, empathy, fairness, justice, love — they ain’t got it and they don’t want it.

Unlike every other sectarian or secular ethical system we humans have come up with, the religion of Bully-God worship lacks any notion of the Golden Rule.

Very much related to the above:

Jenny Rae Armstrong: “Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault: Yes, It Is the Church’s Business

Amanda Marcotte: “The culture of Christian child abuse

Laura Bassett: “The Men Behind the War on Women

Helen Lewis Hasteley: “‘You should have your tongue ripped out’: the reality of sexist abuse online

Graphic: “Explaining Gay Rights to People Who Make the Huge Leap That If We Legalize Gay Marriage It Will Open the Doors to All Sorts of Ridiculous Things” (via)

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  • James Probis

    The thing that infuriates me about the defense of the exemption for religious bullies is that they always proclaim about “free speech.” If that is your objection to the law, creating a narrow exemption for a preferred class of bullies does absolutely nothing to change the free speech impact of the law. This is such a blatant lie it shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but I continue to see people spewing it. If “God hates fags” is protected speech, so is “I hate you”, yet the carefully crafted exemption only permits the first.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Do Michiganders have to apply for an official state bigot license or can they just announce their religion at each bullying session? 

  • Kevin Alexander

    “Perhaps we should start a new denomination.”

    Or convert to Quetzalcoatalism so you can cut theirs hearts out. Assuming you can find one.

  • Kevin Alexander

    “I cannot understand how people actually think that informing others that their all-powerful all-loving God thinks they are abominable, sick, perverted, and damned is somehow magically NOT hurtful because “well it’s not ME who thinks that/ well it’s just the truth””

    It’s the RTC version of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others…..”

    Hey, if I was a faggot I’d sure want someone to come up and tell be that I’m an abomination.

  • “…my favorite way of exposing this sort of thing is replacing the words
    “gay and transgendered” with ‘jewish’ or ‘black’. if someone said,
    “special protections for black teachers make it harder to get rid of

    eh mate… i have been saying this for the past three years.  i don’t understand why more people aren’t using this logic.

    kudos to you.

  • JK

    Pretty much. This law basically requires all school districts in Michigan to create anti-bullying rules according to its provisions. It’s education law, not criminal law — there is absolutely nothing stopping a school from starting disciplinary proceedings against a student under any of its other rules and there is nothing stopping a prosecutor from filing charges for any harassment / assault.

  • Tonio

    Exactly. It’s VERY understandable if the targets of such language feel like hitting the bully to shut hir up. And if we were talking about adults, it would be great if there was some way the target could sue for defamation. In either case, the target is being pushed around and that cannot stand.

  • Anonymous

    man-toaster fornication

    Ow. Ow ow ow. Also, ow.

  • Kim

    There’s more to sex than just penetration!

  • A propos, an image I snagged off imgur but didn’t save the link to.


  • Consumer Unit 5012
  •  Back during the Vietnam war, about the only way you could claim that your belief was sufficiently sincere to claim Conscientious Objector status was to have been born a Mennonite.

    Actually, there has been a steady expansion of the “Conscientious Objector” idea from the Revolution onward. During WWII, recognized membership in a “peace church” was required – Quaker Meeting, or Mennonite, or one of the other denominations that specifically prevent their members from engaging in conflicts.  By Vietnam, you could claim that your strongly held religious convictions prevented you from serving, and if your minister/pastor/rabbi/etc was willing to sign a letter to that effect, you were exempt from service. There was a push to officially make Unitarian and Universalist churches (They didn’t merge until after the war) into peace churches, but the “have your spiritual leader sign a letter” option was considered good enough cover, and allowed congregation members to make up their own mind about the issue (which is very UU). As of the First Gulf War, a strong held moral conviction against violence was sufficient, without any specific religious backing. However, since wars post Vietnam have been fought with a volunteer army instead of a conscript army, I gather it’s become more difficult to make a Conscientious Objector status stick – “if you object so much to violence, why did you join the Army in the first place?” type thing.

  • Hawker40

    Curiously, in the 1980’s, it was possible to join the military as a “Conscientious Objector”, which meant they couldn’t assign you to a job that required you to use a weapon.  Meaning that you were pretty much limited to medical or chaplain corps.  I have no idea if you can still do that, or if anyone ever did do that.

  • Lori

    I remember hearing about that and thinking that it was more than a little odd. I could sort of imagine the kind of convoluted cover all the bases reasoning that would lead to making the rule. For one thing, if someone claimed CO status they could be asked, well why didn’t you say this when you signed up? I couldn’t quite wrap my head around someone actually exercising the option though. If anyone did I would love to hear their story.  

  • Curiously, in the 1980’s, it was possible to join the military as a “Conscientious Objector”, which meant they couldn’t assign you to a job that required you to use a weapon.  Meaning that you were pretty much limited to medical or chaplain corps.  I have no idea if you can still do that, or if anyone ever did do that.

    That’s wild! I know that, during WWII, you could opt to (or be forced to?) take a job in a mine or on a farm to free up someone who did want to go. And, of course, you get the fantastic stories of Quakers overcoming their “distaste” for violence and killing large numbers of enemies on the grounds that the enemy is worse than the proscription against violence.

  • Everyone already beat me to relating the notion that this gives the rest of us carte-blanche to bully the hell out of bigoted homophobes and justify it as a “sincere moral conviction.” 

    Of course, everyone here was a lot gentler in their examples than I would have been.  I guess I am too much of fan of Machiavelli to want to antagonize without intent to use decisive action that preempts retaliation.  By that point, it would be pushed into the category of criminal assault anyway. 

    I would still like to see the people who enacted this exception taught an object lesson about those who do not share their faith.  It is sometimes said that those deep in “the bubble” cannot understand why an athiest might not just go around killing and maiming other people if they have no God to hold them to account.  However, the reasoning is simple:  If they do not try to harm me or those in my support network, then I feel no particular need to harm them.  Contrary, if they do attempt to harm me or those in my support network, then I feel few compunctions about harming them. 

    It is not exactly empathy, but it is the Golden Rule. 

  • P J Evans

     I heard that the minister of the church my family went to when I was in school had been a CO in WW2. That would have been about when he was finishing college.

  • Matri

    The right-wingers have made their “god” into a being such that comparatively Zeus looks like a beacon of morality and virtue.

    And I’m talking about the god who swan-raped a woman.

  • Mmargate

    The only thing I can conclude is that Christians are Bullies.

  • Rikalous

    All Christians? Including the author of the above article?

    If it’s just that some Christians are bullies, that’s not really surprising given what a wide group “Christian” covers.