The Republican party in Michigan has managed to insert into a bill designed to prevent bullying an amendment which turns it into “a blueprint for consequence-free bullying”, reports Alex Hern
As Time magazine reports:
Michigan is already one of only three states in the country that have not enacted any form of anti-bullying legislation.
For more than a decade, Democrats in the state legislature have fought their Republican colleagues and social conservatives such as Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who referred to anti-bullying measures as “a Trojan horse for the homosexual agenda.”
In that time, at least ten Michigan students who were victims of bullying have killed themselves.
This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. And they fought back Democratic attempts to enumerate particular types of students who are prone to being bullied, such as religious and racial minorities, and gay students.
But it was the addition of special protections for religiously-motivated bullying that led all 11 Democratic senators to vote against the legislation they had long championed.
In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer accused her colleagues of creating a blueprint for consequence-free bullying. “As passed today,” said Whitmer, “bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”
Senator Whitmer’s speech is indeed powerful:
Outlining the reasoning behind the Republican amendment, Time adds:
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.
This would look bad for the Republicans, were it not for the fact that their leadership race is mired in dirt several grades worse.
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