The Michigan State Senate on Tuesday passed what looks like a commendable bill to reduce bullying in the public schools, which includes a provision that would appear 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." (SB-0137, C-8). (See p. 5)
The Michigan bill would make it open season on religious bullying. The vote was 26-11, with only Republicans voting for the bill.
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. 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 grade student 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."
Approximately 99 out of 100 parent or student complainants who contact FFRF for help do not want their identities revealed to school districts. Most are concerned about reprisal, particularly their children being stigmatized, embarrassed or bullied.
Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer, in strenuously speaking out against the provision, noted that the bill is nicknamed "Matt's Safe School Law" after a teen who committed suicide in 2002 following anti-gay bullying. Yet the bill would permit bullying based on religious and "moral" convictions against gays.
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.
Urge the governor to veto the anti bullying legislation, should the House pass it with the same provision.
Governor Rick Snyder-R
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
517-335-7858 - Constituent Services
Michigan House Leadership:
Speaker of the House
Contact Your State Representative/Senator (For Michigan Residents Only):
If you are a Michigan resident, contact your representative to urge them not to support the provision exempting religious bullying. Click here to find your representative. Contact your senator and share your reaction with his/her vote on the bill. Find your senator here. Browse the senate roll call and discover how your senator voted.