Where the hell is our country headed? The Michigan Bully Law...

(NOTE: I originally posted this on Facebook, but I'm reposting this here because I know a lot of the people here aren't on Facebook.)


I learned today that, in in Michigan, their state legislature has passed a bill in the House and is now being debated in their Senate. The bill is called "Matt's Safe School Law", in honor of Matt Epling of East Lansing, Michigan who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. When this bill was first written and brought to the Michigan congress, it was an admirable and commendable response to such a tragedy. However, the good intentions of this law were soon twisted and warped into a mockery of what this law sought to prevent. A group of extremist conservatives added a clause to the law that


establish[es] that schools could not prohibit "a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."


Basically this clause allows people to ridicule and bully LGBT children - and any others, actually - who conflict with their "religious belief or moral conviction". So, if it is against your religious belief or moral conviction to be gay, then feel free to mock and ridicule - bully - a gay student. Or, if your religion is against Jews or atheists, then by all means - tell them how you feel, berate them for their beliefs. Don't worry, you're allowed under this law. Oh, you're a teacher? By all means, please feel free to tell them what an abomination they are in front of your class. You're allowed by law.


In case you think I'm exaggerating this, please take a look at this exceptional article by Amy Sullivan of Time Magazine ("Why Does Michigan's Anti-Bullying Bill Protect Religious Tormentors?"). According to Sullivan...


The bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” after Matt Epling, a Michigan student who committed suicide in 2002 after enduring prolonged bullying. Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, expressed his dismay in a Facebook post after the state senate vote on Wednesday. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying,” wrote Epling. “For years the line [from Republicans] has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in…was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions.”


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.



The thing that is most disturbing to me is that the true loving, caring, sincere Christians I know would be appalled at this effort. They would be the first to rush to a gay child's aid to protect him or her from persecution or bullying. As the old saying goes, "love the sinner, hate the sin" - yet it appears that the twisted excuses for Christians in the Michigan legislature have forgotten this basic tenet of their faith. They have decided that they are righteous enough to be the judge, and are allowed to punish the wicked as they see fit.


These are our children, folks! Do we honestly want to give the bullies - both children AND adults - carte blanche to attack "the wicked" as they see fit? Really?


I hope these people come to their senses; or at least someone else with a clearer head and higher purpose will step in and stop this before someone else gets hurt, or bullied into hurting themselves.


Stuff like this scares me. A lot.

Views: 310

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on November 10, 2011 at 10:31pm

You wouldn't believe the debate on got into on this on the Cult of Dusty page.  It's incredibly offensive to see any special consideration given to the 'religious' in this bill, when it is supposed to be an anti-bullying bill to protect all children.

Comment by Dennis Weaver on November 10, 2011 at 10:45pm

@ Heather:


Totally. The clause completely, I'll say it again, completely negates the entire point of this bill.

Comment by Ed on November 11, 2011 at 2:00am

Folks, our country is in the midst of a moral/ethical crisis! I believe that attempts are being made legislatively nationwide to force people to make decisions about their own moral behavior. Maybe it was Oregon that passed the law that if you encounter a person in distress you are legally obligated to assist that individual. Now in Michigan we're trying to stop bullying through legislation? The problems being addressed here need resolution on the home front. Empty laws will never modify a person's behavior. These things are instilled, or not, by the family and parents. It seems we've become morally bankrupt as a nation. Whatever happened to having a clear conscience. I could not imagine walking past someone in dire need of help. Or belittling them because of their sexual persuasion. What the hell is wrong with people these days?


On a positive note, just yesterday I heard an amazing story. I believe it was in Wisconsin that an older man and his wife stopped by the roadway to assist a woman from Canada IIRC who was unable to fix a flat tire. After getting the tire changed the couple took off in front of the woman. A couple miles down the road the man had a heart attack and pulled to the side of the road in severe distress. The woman he just aided comes by and stops. She gets out and immediately starts giving the gentleman CPR. She kept him alive until the paramedics arrived! My faith in humanity is once again restored. Maybe there is reason for hope after all..... there's some things you just can't legislate...

Comment by Scotty Mack on November 11, 2011 at 12:47pm

this is yet another example of how religion and morals do not coincide.  Religion's corrupt ideology is formed with a belief since childhood, and most followers or what I would I think are Mindless Sheep believe in this belief system and then they form their explanations after they already have the belief and the explanations are ridiculous and have no substance or empirical data.  Their religion interprets the bible in whatever they feel will fit with their already morally corrupt version of reality, then they will claim that they are morally and ethically pure, and they readily welcome these views and beliefs which is detrimental to the well-being of society, and this happens in all areas, from LGBT rights & gay marriage education, social reform, & health care.  I look at the statistic of all the conservative religious states in the US and wonder just how much control does religion play? These particular states have the highest percentage of teen pregnancy and also the highest abortion rates, murder rates & they also have higher prison incarceration rates, although out of all the industrialized nations we have more people in prison, we have the worse health care, rank among the worse for education, and according to amnesty international we rank very high for crimes against humanity, so obviously the moral code for religion is pathetic and we all no that morals and religion are not synonymous.  So it doesn't surprise me that fundamentalist christian conservatives would pass legislation like this.  It once again shows how morally inferior people are when it comes to the fundamental rights of all humans, especially since the US signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but we do not follow the guidelines that we help set forth.  Again outside of Iran we our one of the most fundamentalist religious countries on the planet, we have 82% who believe in god, 76% belief in miracles 75% believe in heaven, 73% believe Jesus is the son of god, 72% believe in angels, 71% believe the soul survives after death, 70% believe in the resurrection of jesus, and 61% believe in hell and the virgin birth from mary.  These are alarming beliefs so the passing of ridiculous legislation coincides with the deplorable attitude they exhibit toward fellow human beings.  

Comment by Dennis Weaver on November 11, 2011 at 1:15pm

@ Scotty


Don't forget Turkey! lol

Comment by Geektheist (Rocky Oliver) on November 11, 2011 at 4:42pm

Glad to see I'm not the only one appalled.


This feels like we're seeing the McCarthy-era communist witch hunt, or even back to the original Salem witch trials of the 1600s. It seems that every time society gets caught up in religious fervor and righteous indignation against the people who are "other" - witches, communists, or LGBT/atheist/non-xians. The bad thing is that the pendulum has to swing to it's apex before it will start heading back towards sanity - and I fear we're nowhere near that apex yet. I think it is going to require a bottoming out - like one of the Republican idiots to win the Presidency, and then totally fuck up the economy and/or our international relations - before we finally bottom out and society comes back to its collective senses.


The sad thing is, I don't know if I can take it. I don't know if I can live here if it gets to the point I just described. I've heard others in the past say this, knowing they really don't mean it, but I DO mean it - if we continue down this path, and if one of the idiots running gets elected, I swear I'm moving my family out of this country. Mainly because I fear for our safety - we're out-of-the-closet atheists in the Deep South. If the societal mores continue to the point where it becomes acceptable - even legally protected - to persecute us because of our (lack of) beliefs, then I cannot in good conscience put my family in harm's way. If it comes down to it, we're leaving. It hurts me to say so, but it's the truth. I don't want to be here when we become a theocracy.

Comment by Ralph Oswald on November 11, 2011 at 4:46pm

I thought I had posted links to this this past Saturday. There are several groups working on making a stand against legislation like this that's been gutted then twisted. 

Equality Louisiana advocates for anti-bullying legislation

Equality Louisiana on Facebook

Help Michigan Students Stop the "License to Bully" Bill

I received form letters from several MI congressmen, but the letters address constituents of Michigan districts.  We need to inform those and all other lawmakers that crappy, bullethole-filled type legislation (that completely undoes in one or two sentences) any good it would have obstensibly done, affects more than the state of Michigan. 

Make it known that shoddy legislation is being scrutinized and will not pass muster.  Just so you all know... this deal was done in the evening before the vote, among a few Republican Senators who added Section 8 of the bill, without the full knowledge of the Senate. MI Senate Democrats saw the finalized bill only 1 1/2 hour before the vote was taken, and not all were apprised of the changed document. Not all members of the Senate were in attendance when the vote was taken.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Tp2rLRvkd5Q http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zDK-ja8PLgg

Comment by Ralph Oswald on November 11, 2011 at 5:39pm

@Kasu: The bill that was passed Was Not the bill as it was originally written. Section 8 of the bill was added the evening before the bill was voted on. Even then, The Michigan Senate chose to vote on the legislation WITHOUT everyone's full knowledge.If anyone has seen the movie "Amazing Grace", that is the way the Senate Republicans shoved the Matt's Safe-School Law through. (Tastes like dirt in my mouth just to put that child's name to something so reprehensible.)

The vote in British Parliament of 1833 was the for right thing to do; the vote last week in Michigan's State House was for the wrong thing to do.

Comment by Ralph Oswald on November 11, 2011 at 5:58pm

"It seems we've become morally bankrupt as a nation."

Ed, I fear you are right in that assessment.

When we value the level of how adversely play of a college football's team will be diminished by not allowing its former, disgraced coach to participate over the needs of children who have been molested by one of his assistants, we have sacrificed our standing everywhere, as a society who can judge other nations on their moral shortcomings.

I am ashamed to admit that I was a student at a small Penn State campus and that I held Joe Paterno in high esteem, until reading his comments in regard to the child(ren) who was/were molested. 

American society is upside-down. I have seen it. I just don't know how to affect real change for the good.

Comment by Ralph Oswald on November 11, 2011 at 6:24pm

Kasu, My apologies. You are right about the fact that the House bill was different than the one which, unfortunately, did become law.

Several Dems pointed out that the bill does in no way address bullying of children by electronic means. The main idea, (beyond that which was sought by Matt's father, Eric Epling) was to stop kids from using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to intimidate, harass, and otherwise torment classmates whom have been targeted.


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