Democrats in Michigan wanted to pass anti-bullying legislation but Republicans — much like they do in Congress — acted as obstructionists.
Instead of stopping the bill outright, though, they made the bill completely useless:
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.
That wasn’t all. Senate Bill No. 137 was later amended by the Republicans to let bullies off the hook if they act out because of their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.
So not only does this bill do nothing to prevent bullying, it encourages Christians to continue to treat gay teens as less-than-equal because their “speech” is now protected on account of Jesus.
The bill passed 26-7. Only Republicans voted in favor of it.
In a sad, ironic twist, the bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law” because it was named after a teenager (Matt Epling) who killed himself after being the victim of anti-gay bullying. But now, the same bill could be used to allow that treatment to continue unabated.
It’s not just gay students who would suffer, either. Atheists, Jews, teens who are pro-choice, kids who support comprehensive sex education — they could all face similar abuse at the hands of Christian bullies — and this law lets it happen without punishment.
State Senator Gretchen Whitmer (a Democrat) couldn’t believe this was happening and spoke out against the amended bill in this passionate and powerful speech:
“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.”
Meanwhile, all those Christian “family” groups must be wetting their pants in glee.
This is what they’ve wanted for so long. They think it’s perfectly fine to tell gay kids there’s something wrong with them because their faith commands it. It’s pathetic, it’s degrading, and it’s a large part of why so many gay students feel like suicide is the only way out of the situation.
This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. Christians have always had the right to voice their opinions about homosexuality, including inside schools. There’s a difference between saying you disapprove of homosexuality and taking active steps to stop others from acting on that orientation.
Shannon Burgdorf is an atheist and she can’t believe this is happening, either:
The reason we pulled my son out of traditional school and began homeschooling was because of bullying. Why aren’t adults in charge taking this seriously? Why is religious belief STILL untouchable? How many more kids have to live in emotional and/or physical agony or even die because of this bullying behavior?
Why is religion getting a pass?
Bullying is never ok, period. It doesn’t matter if your faith encourages you to treat gay people (or anyone else) as if they’re any less of a human than you are.
The bill now moves to the Michigan House… where the Republicans dominate. Maybe some of them have a heart. I’m not optimistic.
Tell Governor Rick Snyder (R) and tell him how you feel.
Tell Speaker of the House Jase Bolger to vote against this travesty.
If you’re in Michigan, tell your local representative to say no to the current bill.
And since most of those things probably won’t make a difference, here’s a better idea. If you see someone getting bullied — by anyone, for any reason — report it. Stop it. Stand up for the victim. That’ll do more to stop harassment than anything the Republicans in Michigan have up their sleeve.