(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.