Michigan Law Exempts ‘Religiously or Morally’ Motivated Bullying

Anti-bullying legislation in Michigan passed last week, but as Jezebel.com reports, the law contains a highly controversial provision, added at the last minute by Republican lawmakers, that exempts from the law anyone who makes comments based on their religious beliefs:

Michigan lawmakers have been battling for years over enacting anti-bullying legislation, and the Detroit News reports that last week the state senate finally let the law pass after adding this paragraph:

“This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteers, 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.”

The bill passed 26-11 with every Democrat voting against it. The legislation is named “Matt’s Safe School Law,” and even the father of the boy its named for says the exemption is wrong. Kevin Epling, whose 14-year-old son killed himself in 2002 after being harassed by bullies, said he’s “ashamed” of the bill, adding that the law:

“Would basically say it is okay to bully or to ignore instances of bullying based on your own religious beliefs and/or moral convictions, which is contrary to the rest of the bill and it is definitely contrary to what I’ve been telling students, to step in and step up when they see this taking place in their school. As a society, we need to decrease the bystander effect, those who sit idly by and watch as things happen.”

In response to the controversy, State Senator Rick Jones said, “I don’t believe for one minute that is the intent of this legislation … Certainly a child should not be allowed to go up to another child and say he’s going to hell.” However it’s hard to imagine what purpose the exeption serves if it isn’t to protect students who believe homosexuality is a sin. As Amy Sullivan writes in Time,

“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.”

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  1. by debbie

    On November 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Seriously? what happen to separation of church and state? Religion should play no part in the law… Which special interest group paid to get that little part added… Just repulsive….

  2. by Robin Hillyer Miles

    On November 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    ^^^ I agree with debbie ^^^

  3. by cdi

    On November 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Naturally an attack on conservatives…

  4. by john

    On November 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I can’t believe GOP is providing loop holes for bullying – it is NEVER ok to bully, whether a student, teacher or parent…it is totally destructive behavior…politicians are becoming dumber and dumber as the time goes by.

  5. by Natasha

    On November 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    so now its illegal to bully someone… that is homosexual, now someone that bullies that person can say its a sin & get away with it… its retarted.

  6. by Brianna

    On November 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    @cdi: the conservatives are the ones who added the provision, so yes, those of us who are against bullying for ANY reason are going to say something about it. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for bullying. That’s the way I was raised, and that’s the way I will raise my son. There are many different people in this world, and we need to respect ALL of them, not just those who are like us. If the conservatives don’t like being attacked, they need to stop doing things that are detrimental to society as a whole.

  7. by Michelle

    On November 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Having an opinion is different from bullying.

  8. by Greg

    On November 8, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    What a ridiculously slanted article. I’m a Christian, and I wouldn’t for a moment think it bullying if a Muslim called me an infidel. He or she would have every right under the First Amendment to do so.

    Nor would it be bullying if I shared with another person my sincerely held religious belief that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is one of many sins the Bible condemns, including many that I have committed. I would also share the good news that all sins have been paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. What a crazy world we live in if that is considered “bullying.”

    Or would you cast aside the First Amendment in order to silence me from sharing my religious beliefs?

  9. by Kristen

    On November 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Bullying is wrong, period. There are no instances where it should be exempt, regardless of whether it was religiously motivated. There is a difference between saying “I am a Christian” and saying “You are a bad person and are going to Hell.” Sharing beliefs and bullying are two different things. As a Christian, I want my child to learn to love and respect everyone, not bully others because they are different. This is not a slanted article. The addition should never have been added when bullying for any reason should be ended.

  10. by Alan

    On November 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    @Greg

    If you have a problem with laws against bullying, based on first amendment rights, that’s fine.
    But if you think criminal laws should have religious exceptions in them, you’re not an american.