The Freedom From Religion Foundation spoke out against a provision in Michigan Senate Bill 0137, passed by the state Senate on Nov. 2, which appears to exempt bullying in the name of religion:
“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.”
“FFRF’s legal team spends the bulk of its time trying to enforce neutrality over religion in public schools. We are monitoring coaches, principals, teachers, student bible clubs, and even other students who view a captive audience of students as recruiting territory,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF with Dan Barker.
Abuses FFRF has handled recently include science teachers who jeer at evolution, music teachers who make children sing Sunday school praise songs, principals who post the Ten Commandments on school walls, kindergarten teachers who illegally train their small charges to pray before their milk and cookies, and schools which allow unsupervised Christian youth pastors to roam lunchrooms in search of souls to save.
In one recent case FFRF is pursuing, a parent reported that a religious teacher belittled an eighth grader because the parent was divorced. The teacher reportedly said in the classroom that divorce is a “sin” and the student’s parents would “go to hell.”
The First Amendment requires not that religionists be given a free pass on bullying, but that our public schools be free from religion. Public schools must ensure that students are not harassed, preached at by teachers, or bullied by other students in the name of religion.
Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican who had inserted the religious exemption in the bill, said Nov. 14 that he would drop his amendment and vote for the House version that doesn’t have the exemption, Religion News Service reported.