Earlier this month the state senate in Michigan, in response to the tragic rise of deaths attributable to bullying in America — at least ten of which occurred in Michigan alone in the last decade — passed “Matt’s Safe School Law,” a measure that requires school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies. Unless the bullying is done out of “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”; then it’s A-OK, whether you’re a school employee or school volunteer, a student or the parent/ guardian of a student.
In a moment of spontaneous insanity, an amendment to SB 137 was slipped in by a Republican for Republicans two minutes before the chamber voted on the bill, Senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge offered the political cover to provide immunity to students with a religious objection to gay marriage — which as we all know is a menacing epidemic in the wolverine state.* Moreover, we all know how deeply, personally concerned both sixth graders and sixteen-year-olds alike are about two lesbians in their sixties sharing medical insurance or property together because somewhere they heard someone say something about “the Bible says…”
(Psst! Jesus had two dads. Remember? Under this bill, he could’ve been bullied too.)
All the same, what would prevent someone from exercising their “moral conviction” against, say, a Muslim (not a far-fetched notion in Michigan)? Or, really, couldn’t this be extended to any hate group either, be they white supremacists or the Westboro Baptists? A renaissance of Salem witch trials in Lansing? The KKK in Kalamazoo?
Named after Matt Epling, who took his life in 2002, a so-called anti-bullying bill that actually allows exceptions for when bullying is condonable is just about the sickest, most twisted act of political cynicism a person can think of. To that point, here’s what Sen. Rick Jones himself has posted on his website: “No child should have to endure bullying while at school.” (That is, unless Leviticus is behind the bullying.) Senator Jones has four grandchildren; may they never bullied by another’s “moral conviction.” Click here to take a moment and tell this guy what you think.
The State Assembly passed a version of the bill without any special amendment; so now the two will have to be reconciled. With that in mind, please click here to sign a petition opposing the “license to bully” bill.
* Neither marriage nor civil unions is recognized in the state — and can’t be, after a voter-approved state constitutional amendment in 2004. Clearly still too lenient, the state Supreme Court ruled that domestic partner benefits could not be granted by public employers.