Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing Antigay Bullying Under “Religious Freedom”

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 9.32.04 AMIt’s amazing how far some people can stretch the idea of religious freedom.

The American-as-apple-pie concept seems to be the ammo of choice these days for the religious right to sanction flat-out discrimination, and the passing of Tennessee’s new “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” is yet another deceptively worded protection plan for hate speech.

The bill, which passed the Tennessee senate 32-0 and the house 90-2, purports to protect students from religious persecution in public schools. It mandates that schools must make campus facilities like classrooms and assemblies available to students’ religious expression. In other words: “[p]rovide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.”

Which is hugely problematic even on its own. It means a student could proselytize during recess, preach creationism in biology class or hail Satan during a graduation speech.

Or, you know, explain with impunity in front of fellow students and faculty that homosexuality is evil and punishable by an eternity in hell. Teachers wouldn’t be able to punish or even reprimand them.

Now it’s up to Republican Governor Bill Haslam to hopefully do the right thing (think Jan Brewer in Arizona) and veto the bill. Though based on its nearly unanimous congressional approval, an overruling could very possibly be in the works.

But I suppose if we aren’t going to let our kids bully each other, what’s the point in teaching them to hate in the first place?