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Bully as Victim
November 7, 2011 6:21 AM   Subscribe

A Michigander questions why an anti-bullying legislation became instead a bully protection tool. "On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that 'a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction' justifies their harassment."

"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."
posted by TheGoodBlood (137 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Religion as an excuse for bullying? Oh, wait, I remember now...

"Blessed are the bullies..."

Yeah, I forgot about that part of the beatitudes. Whew. Carry on then.
posted by symbioid at 6:24 AM on November 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Vote Republican: The party of hate.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:25 AM on November 7, 2011 [57 favorites]


Hey, if you've got hangups about sex, then hate is what sells.
posted by Naberius at 6:27 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, your child committed suicide because of the intense, years long mental anguish a bully put him through? I hope it makes you feel better that the bully was sincere.
posted by DU at 6:27 AM on November 7, 2011 [83 favorites]


Because conservative christians are some of the most vindictive people you will ever meet, and will fight with all their might to defend their "right" to inflict pain on those whom their god speaks poorly of.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 AM on November 7, 2011 [32 favorites]


Why is it that some of those people who insist we are not a bunch of unkempt monkeys keep providing so much proof that we are?
posted by davejay at 6:29 AM on November 7, 2011 [66 favorites]


This is disgusting.

It would be really easy to wish upon them all sorts of nastiness. Instead I'll just hope they come to their senses.
posted by oddman at 6:30 AM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


My "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" might be that Fundamentalist Christians are the spawn of Satan. Therefore, I could declare Thursday to be Punch-a-Fundie day.
posted by gimonca at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2011 [22 favorites]


It would be really easy to wish upon them all sorts of nastiness. Instead I'll just hope they come to their senses.

In their view that's probably the same...
posted by debagel at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


> Instead I'll just hope they come to their senses.

Straight Is The Gate And Narrow Is The Way.. plus it's just a really long walk to sense.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:33 AM on November 7, 2011


Stop this world, I want to get off. Ugh.
posted by kmz at 6:38 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Related, and might make a few people feel better: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I was Thirteen and Nerdy.

I said that my main bully, who made my life miserable when I was 13, was institutionalized by the time we finished high school. That was how I learned that I wasn't being bullied for anything I did, other than presenting a convenient target. It was all about the shit going on my my bully's own head, which may have been a lot more unpleasant than the shit going on in mine.
posted by nonasuch at 6:38 AM on November 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Romans 2:1
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

The Michigan State legislature is certainly promoting something, but acceptance of Christianity is not it.

John 2:9
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [52 favorites]


The New American Christian Bible. Only two lines needed, E Z reading for everyone!

"Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a women." Old Testament.

"Believe in me and you will be saved" New Testament.

All the rest is just filler.
posted by Max Power at 6:44 AM on November 7, 2011 [45 favorites]


I am really hoping that Snyder either vetos it or there is a movement to strike it down.

I remember clearly being bullied in 5th and 6th grade, especially 5th grade, because classmates thought I was gay (I am not).

Why they thought that is because of a whole mess of factors I would discover much later (like within the past few years). Namely the inheritance of social traits that didn't quite fit well with the people I went to school with.

That's besides the point though. This is a shit law, and it needs to be canned.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:46 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Swampland post makes a pretty rookie error talking about the issue:
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.
One of the most important ingredients of politically conservative religious fundamentalism is the persecution complex. As others in the thread have noted, they already believe that Muslims, gays, atheists, and other nonbelievers are persecuting Christians unpunished. The Columbine shootings are still bandied about as proof, for example.

It is an article of faith that other religions are allowed to criticize Christianity, while Christians are not allowed to criticize them; that the presence of other religious viewpoints is treated as "diversity" while Christianity is treated as a verboten; that "coming out" asa Christian in public places is a brave risk, rather than an expression of conformity.

If Muslims were allowed to bully Christian students, reality would simply be catching up to these groups' existing narrative.
posted by verb at 6:49 AM on November 7, 2011 [32 favorites]


Why is it that some of those people who insist we are not a bunch of unkempt monkeys keep providing so much proof that we are?

In all seriousness, monkeys are not homophobes.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:50 AM on November 7, 2011 [32 favorites]


That feminine boy is comin' right for us!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


God sends quakes and famines to those he dislikes, obviously, or else God is deaf and cruel and shouldn't exist. So, if God punishes people like a big angry bully, then by example we should punish sinners too, especially those among us who are difficult to send quakes and famines to (or else we might be the next target of God). In this way, religion is bullying others with self-righteousness, while claiming paranoid and hidden persecutions to justify it (because we fear the sinner, by way of a bitter God). Pretending that religion is something that makes sense is either apologetic, or the vain hope of soothing and appeasing an angry God, even with a human sacrifice named Jesus.
posted by Brian B. at 6:58 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a link to the bill as passed by the Michigan State Senate.

This is the actual language of the religious freedom clause:
This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian. 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's parent or guardian.
So it's nonsense to say that
"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."
It's nonsense because a statement of a religious belief couldn't be an assault (in any legal sense) or discrimination anyways, which would require some sort of action.
posted by Jahaza at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well, assault is still against the law no matter there no matter what this stupid law says. Same thing with harassment. I mean, the law as passed is ludicrous, but is legislation either way going to work?

Intervention, empowerment and vigilance are what will turn the tide against bullying, not legislation.
posted by inturnaround at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Odds are very remote that I will ever have children by now. But I have always known that if I ever did, and if my child was ever being physically bullied, I'd go straight to the police.

Because I know from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE that the schools do FUCKING NOTHING.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on November 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


God keeps making gay people.

I would love to know what the haters think the best possible outcome is? That gay men look, act, dress, talk, just like them? That gay men stop thinking about ever having sex? That gay men marry women and procreate?

It breaks my heart that there is such an anti-Christlike feeling among Christians, such a toleration of bigotry and hatred for fellow human beings that have done them no wrong. Jesus wept.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:06 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would love to know what the haters think the best possible outcome is? That gay men look, act, dress, talk, just like them? That gay men stop thinking about ever having sex? That gay men marry women and procreate?

The thing you're missing is that the "Haters" actually don't think God made them that way. They think that being gay is something people just CHOOSE to do, like smoking or drinking. So what they think the best possible outcome is for them to give up being gay like you'd give up drinking or something.

Actually, the most hateful people probably want them to just go away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


The idea is that there's no such thing as a gay person, only a regular (read: straight) person who engages in gay behavior, which is immoral.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:09 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was reading a discussion of this somewhere a couple of days ago, I can't remember where. It's because the proponents have been allowed to re-define the term 'bullying' to mean simply verbal abuse. "Everyone should be allowed to state their opinion," "Don't censor people's beliefs in schools", etc. It kind of makes a bizarre sort of sense in that context.

That was not my definition of bullying in grade school, though.
posted by ctmf at 7:16 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


God keeps making gay people.

I would love to know what the haters think the best possible outcome is? That gay men look, act, dress, talk, just like them? That gay men stop thinking about ever having sex? That gay men marry women and procreate?


Nope. Take 30 straight boys and put em in a class. 28 will turn on the two most effeminate boys and ostracize and bully them as a tool of social compliance and status game. (YMMV: 29:1; 27:3; etc.) It doesn't matter if there is any same-sex attraction or behaviour.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:18 AM on November 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


Given that Michigan also has one of the largest populations of Muslims in America, I can see this also going in other, fun, fucked up ways.
posted by yeloson at 7:18 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I mean is, everyone has let them reframe this as some kid stating flatly, when the subject comes up, "I don't think homosexuality is right," and then everyone screaming "Bully! Bully! Burn the witch!"

Ignoring the pervasive and persistent persecution that really does happen.
posted by ctmf at 7:20 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


The New American Christian Bible. Only two lines needed, E Z reading for everyone!

I think many (if not most) Christians will differ with you that Paul's writings are "just filler." And that's what many fundie religious objections to homosexuality are based upon, not the Old Testament.

If you're gonna quote Scripture, leaving things out to suit your purposes is doing the cause of rebutting the scriptures no good.

Having said that, Michigan has really, really taken a sharp turn for the worse lately, with this and the domestic partnership ban legislation.
posted by blucevalo at 7:23 AM on November 7, 2011


Is it more appropriate for the Michigan legislature to explicitly state that sincere religious speech is not allowed if it could be construed as harassment? I have to admit that in the choice between censoring legitimate student speech and allowing legitimate student speech that I find reprehensible, I have to opt for the latter. I'm surprised that there isn't a consensus here that free student speech is a good thing.

I do disagree that "a statement of a sincerely held religious belief [...] of a school employee" should be in the law; the state does not provide a paid-for venue for religious speech by state employees at a school any more than at the DMV.
posted by saeculorum at 7:28 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think many (if not most) Christians will differ with you that Paul's writings are "just filler."

This is true.

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Corinthians 1:19

posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:30 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's exactly what I was just talking about in my previous comment, seaculorum. You've done it too.

No, I agree with you that speech should not be censored. Bullying is not simply speech, though. It's harassment, intimidation, and occasionally assault and battery.
posted by ctmf at 7:38 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


saeculorum. Sorry.
posted by ctmf at 7:39 AM on November 7, 2011


'a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction' justifies their harassment."

Osama Bin Laden also believed this. So vote Republican, because Osama is too dead to run.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:40 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's nonsense because a statement of a religious belief couldn't be an assault (in any legal sense) or discrimination anyways, which would require some sort of action.

Speech is an action. While free expression is protected under the constitution, it's absolutely true that long-running campaigns of intimidation, persecution, and harassment can be conducted with nothing more than speech. Quite a bit of "Bullying" consists of nothing but that.

The religious protection clause added to this bill ensures that anyone who does those things -- and claims that they were simply expression sincerely held religious views -- is protected by law. It is the "Congratulations, you can torment your classmates with the full protection of the law" law. It would be far better to simply kill the bill.
posted by verb at 7:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


An appropriate headline might be "Republicans Authorize Jihad". Wouldn't that ruffle some feathers?
posted by Xoebe at 7:54 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


There was a previously deleted link about the youtube video linked in the article, and I'm glad someone posted this.
posted by yeoz at 7:55 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Jahaza wrote "It's nonsense because a statement of a religious belief couldn't be an assault (in any legal sense) or discrimination anyways"

I suspect you haven't thought that through.

Student A: Student B, God says faggots are an abomination and deserve death. I hope you die faggot!

Student B complains to a teacher.

Teacher: Well, I sincerely believe in the word of God and God does say faggots deserve death so I also hope you die Student B.

Student B goes to the school counselor hoping for some solace or at least a sympathetic ear.

Counselor: I'm afraid both Student A and Teacher are correct Student B, you're a faggot and God hates fags so you deserve death. If you die

Repeat daily for a couple of years.

Thanks to the Republicans and the bizarre attitude that religiously endorsed hate is and should always be 100% protected that's now completely legal and neither Teacher nor Counselor can face any sanction of any sort at all.

Please explain why you think it is very important that school employees be granted specific license to drive gay children to suicide by means of a long running campaign of constant harassment and derangement via repeated expressions of religious beliefs?
posted by sotonohito at 7:57 AM on November 7, 2011 [37 favorites]


who insist we are not a bunch of unkempt monkeys

Hey, now. I am very kempt, thank you.
posted by grubi at 8:01 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This bill is bullshit. Here in Michigan, Republicans basically have the ability to override Democratic members of both chambers. The majority in the senate can essentially silence Democrats.
My state senator worked very hard to get a bill in place that would prevent bullying. The problem was Republicans did not want to protect those who this bill was framed for. Gay and Lesbian adolescents and minority students. By having the provision of excluding bulyying on moral and religious grounds, this bill is effectively useless.

I love my state, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how the electorate can vote for such terrible people. Even our wishy washy governor wants to build a bridge with Canada, but the special interests (read Mouron, the ambassador bridge owner) is doing everything in his power to buy support of Republicans to hold off on going forward. Next election year cannot come soon enough.
posted by handbanana at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just realized my comment above might have been unclear: I imagine the Christian bullies targeting Muslims (or perceived Muslims...wouldn't want to leave out the Sikh kids, after all), and being protected by this.

As much as I'm sure there's bullies no matter the religion, we all know this isn't EVEN going to protect all religious beliefs equally.
posted by yeloson at 8:04 AM on November 7, 2011


It breaks my heart that there is such an anti-Christlike feeling among Christians

I'm positive that if Jesus came back, he would just be crucified again - by Christians.
posted by cazoo at 8:04 AM on November 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


ctmf said: It's harassment, intimidation, and occasionally assault and battery.

Harassment and intimidation are illegal under Michigan Penal Code Section 750.411h. Racial/ethnic/religious/sexual (although not orientation) intimidation is further illegal if done for ethnic reasons under Michigan Penal Code Section 750.147b. Assault and battery is illegal under Michigan Penal Code Section 750.81. Although I am not a lawyer, I have never heard an argument that any of these actions can legitimately qualify as "speech" under any interpretation of the First Amendment or any law.

The only additional protections this law can legitimately apply to is actual speech - in the form of talking and writing - since all other actions mentioned are already illegal. Speech by students - as in not harassment, intimidation, assault, or battery - should be protected.

Again, I do not believe these protections should apply to school employees or school volunteers. That's the sort of thing people here should be complaining about.
posted by saeculorum at 8:04 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Additionally, this bill is lacking teeth, and does not provide methods of enforcement.
posted by handbanana at 8:09 AM on November 7, 2011


If you're gonna quote Scripture, leaving things out to suit your purposes is doing the cause of rebutting the scriptures no good.

I'm not rebutting anything, those are their beliefs as evinced daily in our media.

Perhaps I was to glib, since the proper role of women is not addressed in my condensed version of the Bible.
posted by Max Power at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jahaza, I'd love to hear your response to the scenario of a bigoted student telling a gay or lesbian student in the hall every day that "God is going to send you to eternal torment after you die, homo. You're going to be in a lake of fire screaming for eternity."

Do you think that scenario would be protected by the Republican bill? Do you think it should be protected? More importantly, do you think it should be prohibited in public schools? I'm not accusing, just curious where you come down on those questions.
posted by mediareport at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of the things I've never gotten about some Christians--the deeply-rooted idea, the one that just won't die, that any sort of protections for gays are somehow going to mean that it will eventually be rendered illegal to say, "I believe for religious reasons that homosexual behavior is wrong." Not that necessarily a lot of these people even *would* do anything that resembled bullying, they are just so fantastically paranoid that they can't believe that you could outlaw actual bullying without simultaneously rounding up everybody who believes something about something. It is relatively uncommon outside of the fringes to find people who really think that name-calling is useful or proper, but support for these exceptions is pretty prevalent.

It seems like the hate crimes thing. Objecting, not that they really believe that there should be some kind of exception for somebody who hurts someone, but because they somehow believe that without a religious exception on a hate crimes bill, that the bill is going to make it a crime to believe anything anybody does is wrong. Or for example, in employment, it's not that they were usually very likely to want to fire a gay person anyway (although things working with kids are often an exception there) but that they have this vision of the consequences, and it involves every gay person who works with a "Christian" (by their definition of the word) suing their employers for discrimination purely for what's going on in that person's head.

I don't know what to make of it, really, but all I can say is that evidently some people think that without these exceptions, these laws are just going to completely nullify free exercise in the US. Which is less monstrous than the objections sound on the surface, in some ways... but on the other hand, considerably more irrational.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


1) As has been stated, this is not a license to bully gay kids. It's a license to bully any kid. "Gay" simply means "not straight enough" or "not enough like me". This is not to downplay the homophobic issue here, but to point out that it's actually worse than what it seems on the surface because "gay" isn't the reason, it's the excuse.

2) Here is my problem with "it gets better". While it's certainly a noble sentiment, and I hope it helps out some kids, it too is an excuse. "It gets better" is, on its surface, yet another excuse for this kind of bullshit. That you just take it for a while because eventually it stops. That it's okay that you dread having to go to the place you're required by law to go to every weekday because there's always the chance that one of your tormenters will eventually end up in a miserable dead-end job while you end up in a somewhat better dead-end job. It doesn't need to get better, it needs to fucking stop now, and bullshit like this law needs to be called out no matter who it offends or makes uncomfortable.
posted by Legomancer at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2011 [26 favorites]


How would this work legally? Would an accused bully have to prove their "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction"? Or would the victim have to prove that the bully does not have a sincerely held belief?
posted by mullacc at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It gets better" is, on its surface, yet another excuse for this kind of bullshit.

Kids don't want to hear, wait about 2/3 of the length of your life to date and things will improve. To them, that's like a 20 year old learning that wages will be okay when they're 60. Its too far out and they miss out on a good deal in the mean time.

The options really come down to: keeping your head down, doing what that kid in Australia did and body slamming one of your harassers, or (as an authority figure) stepping in an boxing some ears.

Option 1 sucks. Option 2 won't happen unless you happen to be bigger. Option 3 doesn't happen enough for one reason or another.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:31 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised that there isn't a consensus here that free student speech is a good thing.

saeculorum, Sotonohito has eloquently explained exactly why I, and many others here, do not support free speech amongst students, even in areas where we would on city streets.

Children are not adults. They are heavily, mightily swayed by peer pressure. And they are in school specifically to learn what their society expects of them - in the US case (I hope), critical thinking instead of bigotry, and a sense of community with all Americans instead of marginalization and xenophobia.

Allowing students "free speech", with all that legally entails, in schools is de facto stating you're OK with a Lord of the Flies mob mentality in the schools, should it arise. No Martin Luther King Jr will arise to fight it; he will graduate to Junior High.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


IAmBroom: I explicitly (twice) indicated out that I do not support the provisions of this law for school employees. Is there a way to frame Sotonohito's argument without including school employees in the mix?
posted by saeculorum at 8:41 AM on November 7, 2011


If you're gonna quote Scripture, leaving things out to suit your purposes is doing the cause of rebutting the scriptures no good.

If you're going to follow Scripture, without leaving anything out to suit your purpose... you are a crazy, sociopathic freak that will either be shot by police, committed to an asylum, or sentenced to life in prison.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


@IAmBroom Actually, I do support free speech for students. But bullying and harassment are a mite different from free speech, especially when such things are known to result in suicides by the victims.
posted by sotonohito at 8:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


saeculorum: without school employees, I do not support free speech for students.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on November 7, 2011


I'm surprised that there isn't a consensus here that free student speech is a good thing.

Oh, I support "Free speech" for students, alright.

However, I also support those same students shouldering the consequences OF the things they choose to say. And if one of those consequences is "detention" if you've said something that violates another student's own rights, then I'm all for that too.

Because, hell, we allow a community to put restrictions on hate speech for adults -- they can still say things, but a community is allowed to dictate where there are specific places and times where and when they CAN'T say those hateful things. Why are students any different?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, to saeculorum: Do you think public schools should allow one student to say to another, "God is going to send you to eternal torment after you die, homo. You're going to be in a lake of fire screaming for eternity"?

How about saying it every day? Or multiple times a day, every day? I'm curious to know if that particular example fits your definition of "free student speech."
posted by mediareport at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2011


Students don't have absolute rights to freedom of speech in schools. Schools can impose restrictions on speech for the purpose of creating and maintaining an educational environment, and are not obligated to permit disruptive and/or harassing speech.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Do you think public schools should allow one student to say to another, "God is going to send you to eternal torment after you die, homo. You're going to be in a lake of fire screaming for eternity"?

They already DO. Go to a school administrator and tell her that you're being harassed in this fashion, and you'll get a shrug and a weak smile and some bullshit about "freedom of religion".

My son went through this while he worked to establish a GSA at his high school. Administrators are either too stupid or too terrified to tell the christianists to shut the fuck up and leave people alone, they instead expect everyone to "respect freedom of religion".
posted by MissySedai at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


My belief that people should be able to have sex with any willing partner is a deeply held moral belief, now I can bully anyone who does not agree, at least in Michigan. Pretty cool law.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


They already DO.

I know, but I'm trying to understand saeculorum's position here.
posted by mediareport at 9:00 AM on November 7, 2011


mediareport: Your question is very valid. I didn't answer it earlier because it wasn't directed at me. If the person sincerely believes what they are saying (which is a very high bar to reach), then I view that as a legitimate statement of someone's religious beliefs just as much as any other religious or political statement in school. I also believe that almost any disparaging statement repeated involuntarily often enough, even those that are otherwise legitimate free speech, constitutes harassment, which is already illegal per Michigan law. I will admit that I don't have a bright line for that. I believe that making statements like that once is not harassment. Once a month is probably not harassment. Once a week is borderline. Once a day is almost definitely harassment. However, I believe that that is harassment regardless of what the content of the statement is - be it due to sexuality or the color of the shirt someone is wearing.

To be clear, I do not support MissySedai's personal experience with administrators not doing their job to determine sincerity. I think there would be very few instances of someone legitimately sincerely believing their religious objections to homosexuality. I think that if the law can deal with questions of harassment vs free speech with the existing law - which I think is handled more or less appropriately - then there needs to be no further law for schools.
posted by saeculorum at 9:03 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


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.”
Protip for Michigan Republicans: when the father of the kid you have named the bill after is denouncing your bill, you're doing it wrong.
posted by adamrice at 9:04 AM on November 7, 2011 [21 favorites]


Making America safe for Westboro Baptist.
posted by Trochanter at 9:15 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jahaza: Here's a link to the bill as passed by the Michigan State Senate.

This is the actual language of the religious freedom clause:
This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian. 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's parent or guardian.
You missed an earlier portion of the bill:
A policy adopted pursuant to subsection (1) shall include at least all of the following
...
a provision indicating that all pupils are protected under the policy and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus.
In short, it's a mealy-mouthed bit of language. Everyone is protected, but the First Amendment still stands, especially for seriously held religious beliefs.

So what does this change? It creates a lot of guidelines for school districts to make procedures to document incidents, but no teeth for schools that don't comply.

Nothing has changed, except more paperwork for teachers and administrators. Bravo.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Trochanter: Making America safe for Westboro Baptist.

Here's the thing: it was already safe for them. They can shout and rant and throw a fit, as long as they don't get involved physically.

Nothing has changed, but more paperwork for the schools. And that paperwork can be as insubstantial as they wish, because I doubt the state senate will scold anyone for not being thorough enough with their write-ups. They don't want to spend their time reviewing that stuff, either.

Nothing has changed.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Schools can impose restrictions on speech for the purpose of creating and maintaining an educational environment, and are not obligated to permit disruptive and/or harassing speech.

Unless it is religious speech, in which case special dispensation is given.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:20 AM on November 7, 2011


Oh, I support "Free speech" for students, alright.

However, I also support those same students shouldering the consequences OF the things they choose to say. And if one of those consequences is "detention" if you've said something that violates another student's own rights, then I'm all for that too.

EmpressCallipygos, you are not describing free speech. Free speech means no legal ramifications - which in this case would mean, can't be punished by the school authorities for saying it.

In fact, you support regulating speech in schools, maybe with a side helping of "students should care enough to break the rules sometimes."
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sure the stars of the worst webcomic ever would approve.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:23 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza: So it's nonsense to say that
"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."
It's nonsense because a statement of a religious belief couldn't be an assault (in any legal sense) or discrimination anyways, which would require some sort of action.


Bullying isn't about physical assault. Read the definition of bullying from the link you provided:
(b) "Bullying" means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following:

(i) Substantially interfering with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of 1 or more pupils.
(ii) Substantially and adversely affecting the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district's or public school's educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm.
(iii) Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil's physical or mental health or causing substantial emotional distress.
(iv) Causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.
Bullying isn't about beating up the weird kids. It's about tormenting, taunting, causing mental anguish, and generally interfering with their schooling.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


I live in Dearborn, my kids go to Dearborn public schools, they are white, Christian and a minority. If a Muslim kid follows my kid around school saying repeatedly "you are an infidel, you are evil, Mohammed hates you" that is bullying. IN THE SAME VEIN, if a kid says to my kid "you are gay, God hates gays, you're going to hell" that is bullying. Your rights to "religious freedom" end quite nicely at the line where you are harassing my kid on a regular basis. ABOUT ANYTHING.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:27 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


You can read the bill, which has already been linked to: oringinal, amended (both html versions).

The original bill states that school districts should develop policies on bullying and the department of education should draw up a report. The amended version adds some details about the legislature thinks the polices should look like.

The "does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment" clause in the amended version seems to be meaningless fluff. The bill wouldn't be interpreted in a way that violates the constitution anyway, and a mere "statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" wouldn't constitute bullying as defined in the bill.

But, assuming this amendment was introduced by a Republican, the Democrats get to claim the Republicans are trying to legalize bullying as a free speech right, and if the Democrats try to take it out the Republicans can claim they're opposed to free speech.

However, the language in the bill about "false reports" bugs me. I leaves the districts free to draw up their policies in such a way that almost no-one will make a report of bullying for fear of being punished for making the report. It fact, it seems to almost encourage them to do so. (That's not what the political debate is about, though.) Unless I missed something, the policies aren't required to include any actual penalties for bullying.

The 'free speech' thing seems to be a red herring. (The amendment does not say that a sincere belief can be used as justification for bullying or harassment, though the article claims it does.) But I don't think "Matt's Safe School Law" is going to much to make schools safer.

Yeah, basically what filthy light thief just said.
posted by nangar at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we're lucky, this travesty will put the brakes on the very ugly trend of laws named after victims.

"North Carolina this year passed Ethen's Law, punishing people who kill or harm an unborn child when attacking a mother..." Where did they even GET that name?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2011


The problem with the bill as it stands with the exemptions is that all of it is subject to evaluation by the school's administration. "Substantial emotional distress" is always going to be subjectively judged, especially if you are relying on a teacher or principal who feels the same way the bullying student does. And plenty of teachers in Michigan are homophobic.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:42 AM on November 7, 2011


The NASP center has an guideline article for principals on how to establish a school culture which discourages bullying.

The entire thing is worth reading, as are the accompanying links. Among the suggestions:

* Establish a coordinating team of teachers who can intervene when necessary.
* Involve the entire school community.
* Develop a code of conduct and intervention protocols.
* Establish and consistently enforce consequences for bullying.
* Distinguish between "ratting" and "reporting."
* Increase adult supervision.
* Conduct schoolwide bullying prevention activities.
* Teach empathy, impulse control and taking a stand in the classroom.
* Get parents involved.

The Olweus Bully Prevention Program is linked as a model system. (This is an updated link. The article is from 2003 and its link to the program is broken)
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Oh, and NASP is the National Association of School Psychologists. They have two official websites, NASP Online and NASP Center.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Free speech means no legal ramifications - which in this case would mean, can't be punished by the school authorities for saying it.

Okay, then I support FIRST-AMENDMENT PROTECTED speech. Which does not necessarily mean "anyone can say anything at any time in any place ever."

Would YOU support totally unregulated speech in schools? Even if that meant a kid could get up and start telling everyone about this Carrot Top act he saw in the middle of an algebra test?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on November 7, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: " Would YOU support totally unregulated speech in schools? Even if that meant a kid could get up and start telling everyone about this Carrot Top act he saw in the middle of an algebra test?"

This seems like a red herring.
posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Zarq, I'd prefer to hear IAmBroom's response about this, thank you. He was the one who introduced the notion of totally unfettered speech in schools.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2011


I would hope IAmBroom also recognizes a red herring.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:10 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that there isn't a consensus here that free student speech is a good thing.

Unlike other places where free speech is protected, students in school are a captive audience. They're not free to leave if they don't like the speech they're hearing. If the state's going to compel students to be there, the state also needs to be able to set some limits on what students will be compelled to listen to.
posted by straight at 10:12 AM on November 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Zarq, I'd prefer to hear IAmBroom's response about this, thank you. He was the one who introduced the notion of totally unfettered speech in schools."

Whether you prefer to hear from me or not, I still reserve the right to chime in when I think I have something to contribute, thanks.
posted by zarq at 10:12 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bullying isn't about physical assault. Read the definition of bullying from the link you provided:

Yeah, I did read it. This has no bearing on what I said, which is that when Sullivan writes, "social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault... impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination." she's writing something false, because when you actually read the bill, speech is permitted and speech is not assault.

It's true that they've put an exception for speech against homosexuality (and against drinking alchohol, or eating pork, or speech against speaking against homsexuality, it's viewpoint neutral) as being bullying in the bill, that's because of cases like Dale Mcalpine's in the UK or the slew of Canadian Human Rights Commission cases, where laws against hate speech have been used to prosecute (not always succesfully) people who've spoken against homsexuality.

If the state's going to compel students to be there, the state also needs to be able to set some limits on what students will be compelled to listen to.

This law isn't the sum total of student behaviour rules in Michigan. Having this law not apply to religious or moral statements won't mean there aren't other rules against being disruptive in school.
posted by Jahaza at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2011


Jahaza: "It's true that they've put an exception for speech against homosexuality (and against drinking alchohol, or eating pork, or speech against speaking against homsexuality, it's viewpoint neutral) as being bullying in the bill, that's because of cases like Dale Mcalpine's in the UK or the slew of Canadian Human Rights Commission cases, where laws against hate speech have been used to prosecute (not always succesfully) people who've spoken against homsexuality.

Worth noting that Canada's and the UK's laws against hate speech are a LOT more thorough and wide reaching than ours. Similar laws could not be enacted here because of the first amendment.
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Free speech means no legal ramifications - which in this case would mean, can't be punished by the school authorities for saying it.

That meaning of "free speech" doesn't exist even for adults. Civil rights law already recognizes that educational institutions have an obligation to deal with "hostile environment" harassment on the basis of race, gender, disability, and religion. The courts have generally upheld that kind of harassment goes beyond the scope of what is protected by the first amendment.

And that's what we're talking about here. We're not talking about a student saying homosexuality is wrong as part of a class discussion. We're not talking about editorials in the student newspaper, or extracurricular prayer meetings.

We're talking about harassment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


The 'free speech' thing seems to be a red herring. (The amendment does not say that a sincere belief can be used as justification for bullying or harassment, though the article claims it does.)

I really don't know about that. You're right that the language about it not abridging constitutional rights is superfluous and meaningless, but how else do you deal with the second sentence in this subsection:

(8) This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian. 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's parent or guardian.

It sounds pretty clear to me that if there were a religiously-motivated incident of bullying or harassment, the kid could raise as a defense the fact that his/her comments were a statement of a sincerely held religious belief, e.g., "God hates fags."
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:28 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a Muslim kid follows my kid around school saying repeatedly "you are an infidel, you are evil, Mohammed hates you" that is bullying. IN THE SAME VEIN, if a kid says to my kid "you are gay, God hates gays, you're going to hell" that is bullying.

The problem with that comparison is that one happens constantly, nonstop, and results in the degradation and eventual suicide of broken-down children, and the other is completely imaginary christian persecution complex bullshit. Even your specific example of being the persecuted minority in Dearborn is a load of fetid garbage. Get some perspective.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:36 AM on November 7, 2011


Okay, then I support FIRST-AMENDMENT PROTECTED speech. Which does not necessarily mean "anyone can say anything at any time in any place ever."

Would YOU support totally unregulated speech in schools? Even if that meant a kid could get up and start telling everyone about this Carrot Top act he saw in the middle of an algebra test?


No, EmpressCallipygos. As I've previously noted, I do not support free speech in schools (where 'schools' indicates 'mandated education for minors', that is; colleges are another matter altogether). I believe there is a strong educational and societal interest in the ability of a school's administration to shut down disruptive speech.

Chanting "Hell no! We won't go!" on a sidewalk: important 1st-Amendment right.

Chanting "Hell no! We won't go!" in a school hallway: disruptive noise that interferes with student education.

And, before anyone asks:

Chanting "Hell no! We won't go!" in a college hallway: disruptive noise that interferes with student education, but may be important enough to merit protection. It depends.

Chanting "Hell no! We won't go!" on a college sidewalk: important 1st-Amendment right.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:50 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shit. Un-fucking-believable.

After 2000+ years, Jesus is still being crucified, every day and every hour and every minute...
posted by Skygazer at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Because I know from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE that the schools do FUCKING NOTHING.

Schools for the masses are in the business of training good unobtrusive little conformists. That's their social role. They are naturally annoyed by and unsympathetic to students who rock the boat and make unpleasant extra work for the staff. The unsympathy certainly extends to students who obtrude their existence as individuals on the staff by getting singled out for some form of victimization. Actually I would expect those students to get an extra helping of unsympathy from the authorities compared to the ones doing the victimizing, because a kid getting bullied isn't going to cause anything like the anxiety for the authority that a crowd of bigger, meaner bullies easily can.

Majoritarian injustice is the very nature of institutions like schools which are basically uncontrolled while also being inescapable. Continuing such an institution means that a) some of the inmates are going to be sacrificed, and b) the sacrifice is acceptable. One can either be up front about this ("Sure, we know some of the kids are getting shafted and probably won't recover, but what else can we do? We can't just turn 'em loose.") Or one can indulge in pious denials, but these do not alter the reality of the situation (and have other drawbacks, such as adding to the amount of hallucinatory absurdity around when there is already such a gracious plenty.)
posted by jfuller at 10:52 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Free speech means no legal ramifications - which in this case would mean, can't be punished by the school authorities for saying it.

That meaning of "free speech" doesn't exist even for adults.

True, CBrachyrhynchos. I was using a verbal shorthand. But to say you have free speech as long as you understand you may go to jail/face detention, is to say you don't have free speech. That was my point.

Free speech, without legal ramifications, exists for speech which does not infringe another's rights (it does not cover death threats, for instance), and in public places (you don't have a 1st-Amendment right to hold a sit-in inside my house without my permission).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:53 AM on November 7, 2011


The problem with that comparison is that one happens constantly, nonstop, and results in the degradation and eventual suicide of broken-down children, and the other is completely imaginary christian persecution complex bullshit. Even your specific example of being the persecuted minority in Dearborn is a load of fetid garbage. Get some perspective.

FatherDagon, there's nothing imaginary about something that happens every day in the real world - even if it doesn't happen in US public schools. Ask Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Kokopuff's example is a valid point; far from having a persecution complex, he/she is supporting a child's right to not be bullied. Your ad-hominem is unwarranted. And offensive. And I'm an atheist.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:58 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]




But to say you have free speech as long as you understand you may go to jail/face detention, is to say you don't have free speech. That was my point. Free speech, without legal ramifications, exists for speech which does not infringe another's rights (it does not cover death threats, for instance), and in public places (you don't have a 1st-Amendment right to hold a sit-in inside my house without my permission).

You seem to be trying to put a foot in both camps here. On the one hand you seem to say that "free speech with punitative restrictions isn't free speech", but then you seem to say that "free speech exists as long as it follows these restrictions".

What I mean is -- I'm not sure why you're on the one hand saying that we can't call it "free speech" if there's a legal ramification, but on the other hand you say that a person shouldn't be allowed to hold a sit-in in your living room. What kind of punishment WOULD you consider for the person who DOES attempt to do this, if not a legal one?

I'm trying to get clarity because I'm not sure whether you're leaning more towards the "there should be more" or "less" freedom side of the spectrum.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on November 7, 2011


Seriously, FatherDagon, you linked to Wikipedia to make your point? Well, you got me beat. I only live here. And it doesn't really matter if it happens once or millions of times. Any repeated verbal harassment is bullying. Which was my point. And yes, IAmBroom: the Coptics live in fear everyday; and I'm sure some of my Muslim friends live in fear everyday from some of the crazypants right wingers who toss Arabic racial slurs around constantly.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


FatherDagon, there's nothing imaginary about something that happens every day in the real world - even if it doesn't happen in US public schools. Ask Coptic Christians in Egypt.

I'll ask the Coptics about it when we're discussing social issues and bills being passed in EGYPT. Until then, it is unrelated derailment - unless you want to pit it against Cathar purges and the Inquisition and whatever else? Christians pissing and moaning about how the world is against them is the most pathetic self-absorbed whinging ever crafted.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:15 AM on November 7, 2011


This is my problem with "It gets better." It doesn't.

Those same assholes who bullied you growing up just get funding and political power to continue bullying and enabling bullies.

"It" only "gets better" in that one learns to deal with "it" over time.

Sort of.
posted by brand-gnu at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It gets better when we make it better.

This bill is the opposite of that.
posted by andreaazure at 11:20 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, I don't think Kokopuff was pissing and moaning about the world being against her. I don't live in Dearborn, so I can't say. But it certainly seems plausible that, in a school where there's a heavy religious majority to a small religious minority, members of the majority religion may bully members of the minority religion. And that should be illegal no matter what religions we are talking about, here.
posted by ofthestrait at 11:21 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Related: On Religious Exemptions To Civil Rights.
posted by ericb at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is my problem with "It gets better." It doesn't.

Actually, my problem with "It gets better" is that it lets the bullies off scot-free.

What other crime or social problem do we tackle by trying to tell the victim "oh, don't worry, it'll keep happening but it will stop eventually?" Do we tell victims of theft that "don't worry, eventually you'll stop missing the TV that someone broke into your house and stole"? No. There is a system in place to punish thieves. Similarly, there should be some kind of system in place to punish bullies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]






Hoo-boy, The National Organization for Marriage is all fired-up about Simon & Schuster's 'It Getteth Better' video.
"We guess Simon & Schuster thinks this is smart marketing -- mocking Christian pastors who preach the bible's teaching on sexuality (warning: many folks will find this deeply offensive)."*
Oh, for those poor persecuted Christianists!
posted by ericb at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: I think that speech, insofaras it does not threaten the safety of others, should be permitted for all adult humans.

I also think schools are within their rights to limit the speech of children in their custodial care, for the purpose of ensuring their education, as I've noted in several examples.

As to your specific example, if someone attempted to hold a sit-in by entering my house, I'd have them arrested for trespassing at the very least. I could not do that if they were on public grounds (even right in front of my house*); that was my point.

*Well, I shouldn't be able to. I suppose if I were 1%-enough, it might be possible in today's political climate.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that speech, insofaras it does not threaten the safety of others, should be permitted for all adult humans. I also think schools are within their rights to limit the speech of children in their custodial care, for the purpose of ensuring their education, as I've noted in several examples.

Then I suppose I don't understand why, when I said this very same thing, that you said that I "didn't believe in free speech". But since it seems to be getting further away from the point, I'm content to remain ignorant (unless you want to memail me or something; I just hate to push this into a derail).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on November 7, 2011


I have my own criticisms of It Gets Better but, to me, it's clearly a part of a larger system of activism. We need both support activism like It Gets Better, P-FLAG, GSLEN, and the Trevor Project, along with change activism in the form of laws to make schools safer. This is, in fact, parallel to how we deal with other forms of harassment and violence: support the survivor and get the perpetrator in courts.

And I'll point out that the large amount of media attention on It Gets Better certainly has been part of the change process that gets anti-bullying laws passed.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Jahaza Can you clarify something for me?

Do you, or do you not, think that school employees, staff, teachers, etc should be permitted to tell students, repeatedly, that they should die, that God hates them, that they should be tortured for all eternity, etc?
posted by sotonohito at 12:20 PM on November 7, 2011


ofthestrait: House GOP leaders seek compromise in controversial anti-bullying legislation

Erg. I'm probably ranting on politics in general, but this is missing the point:
The language was blasted by Senate Democrats, the father of the boy for whom the bill is named, and State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. It has also garnered national attention.

“We are working on the situation to try to take care of the language in the Senate bill that the House Republicans cannot support,” Adler said.

It may not go far enough for Democrats who not only want the language struck, but want more specific language added to the legislation that would bar bullying students for specific instances, such as sexual orientation.
Don't you see, singling out one (persecuted) group was the problem? Anyway, it's meaningless, if the bill already says "no bullying of anyone," as "homosexuals" are a subset of "everyone."

First edition: No one can bully anyone else, and here's how we document bullying, etc.
Second edition: No one can bully anyone else, but don't forget about First Amendment rights (which we couldn't over-ride, anyway).
Third edition: No one can bully anyone else, especially if the bullying is based on sexual orientation (or any other classification, minority or otherwise).

Nothing changes, again.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:27 PM on November 7, 2011



I hate stuff like this because it's like an eel dripping in motor oil. Come on now, we know what bullying is, and I don't need legislation to tell me.

Considering that American Public School is part of government, and in our country we believe in a separation of Church and State, then there's no reason for there to be any kind of religious speach on school grounds. Not from students, teachers or administrators.

Feel free to espouse your religious views in church, that's the appropriate place for them, leave them out of the classroom.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:35 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


> ... how else do you deal with the second sentence in this subsection:
... 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's parent or guardian.
It sounds pretty clear to me that if there were a religiously-motivated incident of bullying or harassment, the kid could raise as a defense the fact that his/her comments were a statement of a sincerely held religious belief ...


It's a real stretch to read this as saying hitting or harassing people because you claim they don't conform to your "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" is the same as making a statement about your beliefs or convictions. The courts have not, to my knowledge, usually interpreted the two as equivalent, or interpreted harassment and assault protected speech.

There's additional language in the bill, which states, as filthy light thief quoted earlier:

... all pupils are protected under the policy and ... bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus.

My interpretation of this is that bullying somebody is still bullying, even if the "motivating animus" is "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." I'm reading it that way because the bill explicitly states "bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus" and reading the free speech clause as contradicting that requires a really creative reading of "statement."

As I understand the bill, saying something like "I think gay marriage is wrong" doesn't constitute bullying (and wouldn't have anyway without the addition of that amendment), but harassing someone because you think they're gay is bullying (and still is even with this amendment).

I think it takes a pretty strong partisan animus to insist on reading this as an exemption for conservative Christians bullying gay people.
posted by nangar at 2:12 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


My pagan kid can beat up your christian kid.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:17 PM on November 7, 2011


People talking about It Gets Better being an excuse aren't really following whats going on.

The IGB stuff was launched because of gay teen suicides. It's meant to keep the worst of the despair from making kids take irreversible actions based on an often temporary condition (sure, society won't be 100% perfect for them when they're older, but middle/high school really is the worst time for many, _especially_ those with homophobic parents and faculty).

It's part of a larger movement towards reducing these issues, though. It's not about saying that and then being all "It's OK now" and forgetting about the issues. At least, thats not the way Dan Savage talks about it (and if anyone can define it he can).

Some people may use it that way, but it's absolutely not the idea that you tell kids it gets better and thats all you do. You tell them that so they don't kill themselves, while the harder work to actually make things better for everyone, all the time, happens. Because that kind of change will take a long time, and in the meantime kids need to know that most (not all) of them will be able to have more agency and control of their life when they are older, and not be forced to stay with abusive, homophobic teachers and parents.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:44 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it takes a pretty strong partisan animus to insist on reading this as an exemption for conservative Christians bullying gay people.

It doesn't exist as a standalone event, unfortunately. Conservative Christians have opposed every attempt to protect GLBTs from overt discrimination, physical violence, workplace harassment, and so on.

Spokesdrones continually frame the debate as an attempt to protect Christians who murmur quiet objections to a relentless, society-wide campaigns of Gay Prosthelytization, and warn that it will be illegal to read from the Bible if gays have their way. You can see this kind of crap in the warning from the AFA in the Swampland article: "[this bill] is a trojan horse for the homosexual agenda."

Simply put, they demand the freedom to do everything short of physically attacking homosexuals in the name of religious freedom. Verbally harassing them? Yes. Firing them? Yes. Refusing to rent to them? Yes. Telling lesbian military personnel they should repent for their sins as part of PTSD counseling? Yes. Refusing to do their jobs as civil servants if they're asked to serve gay residents? Yes.

And despite what others have said in this thread, those same conservative Christians have worked tirelessly for years to prevent sexual orientation from being added to the list of things that can be considered cause for "discrimination." Even today, organizations like Focus on the Family are fighting to add restrictive language to "generic" anti-discrimination laws, making it definitionally impossible to discriminate on the basis of orientation. They've always opposed hate crime laws, and actively lied about their nature to scare their constituents.

So, please understand when people see this bill as part of that effort -- the effort to ensure Christians can do anything short of physically assaulting a gay person without suffering any consequences -- please look at why people think that. They think it because it is what conservative christians have been fighting for for decades, in legislation and other lobbying efforts.
posted by verb at 3:57 PM on November 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


@nangar But saying "I think you should die because fags are evil" is a statement of religious belief. That's why the Republicans put in the religious belief exception, because they wanted gay kids, minority kids, etc, to be constantly subject to people "expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs" by telling those kids they are evil, or should die, or what have you.
posted by sotonohito at 4:37 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sickening.
posted by agregoli at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2011


So, please understand when people see this bill as part of that effort -- the effort to ensure Christians can do anything short of physically assaulting a gay person without suffering any consequences -- please look at why people think that.

But people have said anything including assault. Just read the FPP.
posted by Jahaza at 8:31 PM on November 7, 2011


The Internet is broken for me today (or, more likely, I'm broken for the Internet). I can see the form in nonasuch's link What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Thirteen and Nerdy, but I don't see anyone's posts to it. Does anyone else see posts? Maybe it is just me.
posted by eye of newt at 9:10 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


But people have said anything including assault. Just read the FPP.

I'm trying to make a distinction between the things conservative Christians are willing to defend explicitly (like job discrimination, housing discrimination, political discrimination, arrest for committing sodomy, harassment, and in some nations even forced "deconversion therapy") from the things they defend implicitly by opposing laws that protect the GLBT community from physical assault, intimidation, or violence. Hate crime laws protects Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other religious groups; races, ethnicities, and creeds; and even genders. But efforts to extend those protections to the GLBT community have been fought tooth and nail by conservative Christians.

I know of few conservative Christians who support physical violence against gays, and I would not go so far as to say that they are fighting to protect assault. But like those who claim that laws punishing rapists discriminate against men, they provide social, cultural, and legal cover to those who commit those crimes. They claim that everything up to the point of physical violence is free expression of religious belief, and also fight attempts to classify targeted attacks on GLBT victims as hate crimes.

The idea that GLBT victims cannot and should not be legally protected from crimes that Christians are legally protected from is an article of faith in conservative Christian circles. I'm not sure how I can spell it out any further.
posted by verb at 9:33 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]




@Jahaza Since you won't address the actual question, I'll take the time to address your red herring.

You keep obsessing over the fact that Sullivan said "assault". I think its clear from context she meant it as a synonym for "attack" and not in the legalistic sense of the word.

Though, I do note that Matt Epling had eggs and various other things dumped on his head as part of the successful effort by Christians to drive him to suicide, and I believe that legally that is assault. I also note that the school and law enforcement were utterly disinterested in doing diddly about it.

Now that I've addressed your attempted deflection, how about you answer the question I asked?

Do you, or do you not, think that school employees, staff, teachers, etc should be permitted to tell students that they should die, that God hates them, that they should be tortured for all eternity, etc? The teachers, staff, etc will all claim it's simply a statement of their sincerely held religious belief that faggots should die, do you agree?
posted by sotonohito at 7:03 AM on November 8, 2011


Jahaza, I have to admit that I'm not certain why you're dodging sotonohito's question, or at least not clarifying WHY you're not answering it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2011


@Jahaza Since you won't address the actual question, I'll take the time to address your red herring.

You keep obsessing over the fact that Sullivan said "assault". I think its clear from context she meant it as a synonym for "attack" and not in the legalistic sense of the word.

...

Now that I've addressed your attempted deflection, how about you answer the question I asked?


I've been disinclined to respond to your earlier comments, because I've found your tone very hostile. "obsessing over," etc. I commented about "assault" before you commented in the thread, so I'm hardly deflecting from your question by talking about it.

Your method of questioning is offensive:

Please explain why you think it is very important that school employees be granted specific license to drive gay children to suicide by means of a long running campaign of constant harassment and derangement via repeated expressions of religious beliefs?

There's no reason for you to think that I think teachers should be allowed to "drive gay children to suicide" in the first place. So for you to accuse me like this is wrong.

Though, I do note that Matt Epling had eggs and various other things dumped on his head as part of the successful effort by Christians to drive him to suicide, and I believe that legally that is assault. I also note that the school and law enforcement were utterly disinterested in doing diddly about it.

And the legislation would include this kind of assault, religiously motivated or not, in its definition of bullying. Note, by the way that the Washington Post published this correction to its post on the amendment:
An earlier version of this post said that Matt Epling was assaulted by anti-gay bullies. His father, Kevin Epling, says there is no indication that the assault against his son was related to sexual orientation.
Do you, or do you not, think that school employees, staff, teachers, etc should be permitted to tell students that they should die, that God hates them, that they should be tortured for all eternity, etc? The teachers, staff, etc will all claim it's simply a statement of their sincerely held religious belief that faggots should die, do you agree?

I think there shouldn't be a general legal prohibition against teachers discussing religious, moral, and political views, even controversial ones, with their students. I think that bad behavior by employees, staff, teachers, etc. was not part of the original bill and the amendment didn't change that. The original langauge of the bill that passed the MI Senate said, "'Bullying or harassment' means abuse of a pupil by 1 or more other pupils in any form." (my emphasis) (Though this may be a substitute bill, but this version as introduced did not include the religious and moral exception clause.)

A law can work towards "solving" a social problem even if it doesn't solve all social problems. A narrowly tailored law that avoids creating a new problem while ammeliorating some problems and not others may be better on balance than a law that creates new problems and solves more problems.
posted by Jahaza at 7:39 AM on November 8, 2011


Jahaza, I think I get what you're trying to say, but I think what's still not clear is whether or not you consider the abusive language of the sort sontonohito has given examples of to be the "bad behavior" you are saying should be prohibited. That may be the disconnect we're running into here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on November 8, 2011


I think sontonohito's examples and questions are more about scoring debating points and personal attacks than discovering what my views are.
posted by Jahaza at 7:49 AM on November 8, 2011


Jahaza: "I think there shouldn't be a general legal prohibition against teachers discussing religious, moral, and political views, even controversial ones, with their students. "

Just to clarify, do you then believe that there should be no legal restrictions in place to discourage or prevent a teacher from telling a student they are going to hell for being gay? Or for being Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or a different Christian sect? Or for not accepting Jesus into their hearts? Or who systematically punishes children in the classroom who follow religious beliefs that they do not approve of?

Do you then believe there should be no legal recourse available to students if a teacher is harassing or discriminating against them because of religion?
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2011


And just for the record, I really am curious and trying to understand what you mean. Not trying to score points off you here.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2011


O.K., with EmpressCallipygos's encouragement to respond more directly, even though it's in my view somewhat off topic, here it goes.

Do you, or do you not, think that school employees, staff, teachers, etc should be permitted to tell students that they should die, that God hates them, that they should be tortured for all eternity, etc?

I think they should probably be permitted to express these views (some of which are incredibly rare). The situations in which it is appropriate to express these views would be, in public elementary and secondary schools, quite limited, probably to responses to direct questioning by students. Hard cases make bad law. It's probably not possible to prohibit the expression of these views without prohibiting less inflamatory views like "homosexual acts are wrong" or "same-sex marriage should not be made legal."

The teachers, staff, etc will all claim it's simply a statement of their sincerely held religious belief that faggots should die, do you agree?

This question is somewhat underdetermined. If you mean in the context of the MI law, than no, because it doesn't apply to teachers anyways.

Zarq's questions:

Just to clarify, do you then believe that there should be no legal restrictions in place to discourage or prevent a teacher from telling a student they are going to hell for being gay? Or for being Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or a different Christian sect?

Discourage or prevent is also somewhat underdetermined. I'm inclined to think that, no, we shouldn't prevent--in appropriate discussions--teachers from expressing views about the truthfulness of other religions and about the religious doctrine of their religion. I mean students aren't dumb. If they learn about the French Wars of Religion in history class or the Holocaust and enough background to figure out what's going on in these events and they see that their teacher wears a crucifix necklace or a yarmulke, how are we going to prevent them from wanting to discuss these issues entirely?

When a kid stands up in health class and says "My dad says all gay people are going to hell." The teacher isn't going to be able to be completely viewpoint neutral. Any law specific enough to "prevent a teacher from telling a student they are going to hell for being gay" is probably going to make it difficult to have that discussion legally. And it's bad practice to make laws with the expectation that they'll be broken.

Or who systematically punishes children in the classroom who follow religious beliefs that they do not approve of?

Do you then believe there should be no legal recourse available to students if a teacher is harassing or discriminating against them because of religion?


We already have laws against religious discrimination. These laws are not controversial and I'm in favor of them.
posted by Jahaza at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2011


Jahaza, I think we're kind of going around in circles here. I think we're all talking about a much more specific situation than the one you're trying to address.

Let me try with an example.

Student A tells Student B: "You're a fag and that means you're gonna burn in hell!" When Student B complains to a teacher, Student A says, "Well, that's what the Bible says about fags!"

Is Student A telling Student B "you're a fag and that means you're gonna burn in hell!" an example of harrassment, and therefore meritous of punishment, or is it an example of protected religious expression?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2011


@Jahaza "because I've found your tone very hostile."

Ok, so?

I found your tone very dismissive towards the problem of bullying. So?

"so I'm hardly deflecting from your question by talking about it."

I meant that you're deflecting from the actual problem, kids being driven to suicide by bullies. And yes, obsessing. You're focusing in a legalistic way on one single word, taking it out of context to try and make it mean something it didn't, all in the service of not talking about the real problem.

Like I said, I find your tone to be dismissive of the problem.

"There's no reason for you to think that I think teachers should be allowed to "drive gay children to suicide" in the first place. So for you to accuse me like this is wrong. "

Actually, there is.

Like the Republicans you have focused on a fantasy of Christians being persecuted under anti-bullying laws. Your first comment was dismissive of the problem, dismissive of concerns about the changes put in by the Republicans, and started your obsessive deflection on the word "assault".

You exemplified what Sullivan was talking about.

Which is why I asked my question, and I note you have still dodged and avoided actually answering.

You wrote: "It's nonsense because a statement of a religious belief couldn't be an assault (in any legal sense) or discrimination anyways, which would require some sort of action." (my emphasis)

Which is why I'm asking you to clarify your belief.

And now you have, sort of.
I think they should probably be permitted to express these views (some of which are incredibly rare). The situations in which it is appropriate to express these views would be, in public elementary and secondary schools, quite limited, probably to responses to direct questioning by students.
Ok, and if a teacher takes the time, only 30 seconds or so, every day to tell Student B that they think Student B should die, what then? Is that something you will claim is a legitimate expression of religious belief, or is that something you're willing to say should be banned.

The problem I have with what you've said and what appears to be the basis for your position, is that you appear to be vastly more concerned with an imaginary problem (Christians being persecuted), than you are with the real problem of students being driven to suicide by religiously motivated bigotry, hate, and bullying.
posted by sotonohito at 8:21 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with what you've said and what appears to be the basis for your position, is that you appear to be vastly more concerned with an imaginary problem (Christians being persecuted), than you are with the real problem of students being driven to suicide by religiously motivated bigotry, hate, and bullying.

Sotonohito, chill a second -- I've asked him to clarify whether this is so. Give him a chance to respond.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2011


@EmpressCallipygos I didn't preview and see your comment before I posted mine.
posted by sotonohito at 8:28 AM on November 8, 2011


@Jahaza "because I've found your tone very hostile."

Ok, so?


So you're being a jerk. You're personally accusing me of nasty things, like wanting teachers to be "granted specific license to drive gay children to suicide".

I found your tone very dismissive towards the problem of bullying. So?

Lets be clear. I think bullying is wrong. There's nothing I've written that suggests that I think it's O.K. Bullying had a severe effect on my life as a child.

We disagree about some of the details of what constitutes bullying and about elements of the proper policy response towards that problem. You need some perspective that disagreement around the edges doesn't make me some kind of enemy to be trashed and insulted, which is after all the very kind of problem we're talking about.

I meant that you're deflecting from the actual problem, kids being driven to suicide by bullies. And yes, obsessing. You're focusing in a legalistic way on one single word, taking it out of context to try and make it mean something it didn't, all in the service of not talking about the real problem.

"There's no reason for you to think that I think teachers should be allowed to "drive gay children to suicide" in the first place. So for you to accuse me like this is wrong. "

Actually, there is.

Like the Republicans you have focused on a fantasy of Christians being persecuted under anti-bullying laws. Your first comment was dismissive of the problem, dismissive of concerns about the changes put in by the Republicans, and started your obsessive deflection on the word "assault".


No, this is completely unfounded on the reasoning you present. That I believe teachers should be allowed to "drive gay children to suicide" is an outragous libel. You're making it up.

Ok, and if a teacher takes the time, only 30 seconds or so, every day to tell Student B that they think Student B should die, what then? Is that something you will claim is a legitimate expression of religious belief, or is that something you're willing to say should be banned.

I think that you're "vastly more concerned with an imaginary problem," to borrow a phrase, than with the actual thing the law was intended to address bullying of students by other students. A teacher who goes out of their way, apropos of nothing, to tell a student that they should die every day, because they're gay, or because they're black, or because they're a Cubs fan is insane and clearly unqualified to be a teacher.

The problem I have with what you've said and what appears to be the basis for your position, is that you appear to be vastly more concerned with an imaginary problem (Christians being persecuted), than you are with the real problem of students being driven to suicide by religiously motivated bigotry, hate, and bullying.

We have the relatively low levels of religious persecution we have in the United States in part because of our robust protections for expressions of religion. It's not, in fact, at all clear to me that we have "real problem of students being driven to suicide by religiously motivated bigotry, hate, and bullying." According to his father, it wasn't the case with Matt Epling. We have a real problem of students being driven to suicide because a lot of kids are assholes.
posted by Jahaza at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2011


I think the disconnect, Jahaza, is in that some people are trying to protect "being assholes" under the cloak of relgious protection. And sontonohito is just trying to find out where you'd draw the line between one and the other.

I offered the example of one kid telling another kid "you're a fag and that means you're going to burn in hell." I have a feeling if you just told sontonohito where you'd draw the line on that, he'd sufficiently understand.

Right, sontonohito?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on November 8, 2011


An appropriate headline might be "Republicans Authorize Jihad". Wouldn't that ruffle some feathers?

The response would probably be to appoint a tzar.
posted by srboisvert at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Colbert Report: The Word - Bully Pulpit
posted by homunculus at 12:41 PM on November 10, 2011


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