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?

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  • Cam

    And if it is a student’s religious belief that raping fellow students is required? Or that other kids must give them their lunches for free?

  • Kangol

    Now is it clear why all these states were hysterical about “anti-Sharia” laws? Because their long game involves banning Sharia laws first, so that they can then use warped versions of Christianity to allow discrimination.

    We have got to start being proactive and pushing back, and for getting sane religious people with progressive religious views that challenge these bigots, because they’re poised, depending on how the Supreme Court rules in the Hobby Lobby case, to go hogwild with discrimination.

    And if you don’t think they will, just look at how they misused the law AND religion to discriminate against African Americans for hundreds of years.

  • Charlie in Charge

    Not quite Cam, rape itself is illegal; the law mainly gives the person the right to exempt themselves.

    As a Wiccan, I would wonder if this meant that I could hold a Beltane celebration on campus, complete with the invocation of deities. Additionally I would want to be able to perform divination before taking any standardized tests. Entrails aren’t necessary, I would settle for runes.

  • LubbockGayMale

    Jeez, sounds like they’re taking a cue from middle east and imposing religious law into sectarian situations… isn’t that the same thing the far right bemoans regarding Sharia law in Iraq, etc???? Oh, forgive me, I forgot this is based on CHRISTIAN law, not muslim…. my bad. (yes I’m being sarcastic)

  • Daniel-Reader

    In the bible the Christian deity orders the murder of women and children, and the rape of underage girls by forcibly taking them as wives. So students can declare their fellow students must be put to death and the bill would shield them since the bible is specific about the Christian deity wanting women and children executed. What an appalling bill – the legislators haven’t read their own religious books. Students could proclaim that police officers must be executed since police officers work on the Sabbath and the bible says sabbath workers must be executed – no exceptions. I don’t think the legislators have thought about the reality of religious dogma – Mormons can proclaim that non-whites are the race of the devil since that’s a core belief of mormonism. Muslims can proclaim Christians must be executed for being infidels. These legislators must be nuts.

  • Cam

    @Charlie in Charge: said…..

    “Not quite Cam, rape itself is illegal; the law mainly gives the person the right to exempt themselves.

    So is assault and harassment and yet this law is EXEMPTING them from those because of religious beliefs. The comparison is on point.

    Let’s be careful please, our community seems almost desperate to try to minimize things that are being done to it and claim that somehow discrimination isn’t real discrimination.

  • Daniel-Reader

    Remember gay students can still sue schools and fellow classmates under the First Amendment whenever their own freedom of religion is violated by others trying to force religion upon them. People forget to exercise their own First Amendment, Second Amendment, etc. rights in response to anti-gay people, who don’t have a lock on religion. For instance, a gay kid who is a Quaker or member of the United Church of Christ or other welcoming group that actually upholds Jesus’ commandment “to love one another as I have loved you” and “that which you do unto the least of these, you do unto me” and “do unto others as you’d have done unto you” and to “judge not lest ye be judged” does not have to put up with having his or her religious rights violated by hate-mongering faux-Christian sects.

  • ait10101

    So I guess the next exemption is a general one from all laws not passed according to (their peculiar) religious precepts. Bring on the Ayatollahs! Make America fee for religion (oops, wrong religion)! No more religious suppression! Freedom to hate by way of the law!

  • jmmartin

    Just as Christopher Hitchens concluded, religion poisons everything. ait10101 has the right idea, comparing such theocratic believers with Muslim theocrats, showing theocracy is the opposite not of totalitarianism in particular but the more insidious theocratic totalitarianism. For that is what we will become if we allow evangelical ideologues to impose their dogma and rituals upon a nation founded by men in whose minds, such failure to totally separate church and state resulted in autos-da-fe, torture, burnings, confiscations of secular property for ecclesiastical use, and other horrors. These modern theocrats want to return us to the Dark Ages.

  • Ridpathos

    As a teacher, I have no problem giving a student campus facilities to use for his/her religious expression. So long as it doesn’t happen during instruction time and no one else has to hear it.

  • DickieJohnson

    It should not be at all surprising to anyone that this idiocy would happen in TN, or for that matter, in AL, MS, or GA, but to have only TWO dissenting votes, in both Houses is, unbelievable. They’re worse hillbillies than I’d feared possible!

  • sangsue

    Wait until the first Satanists start wanting to practice their religion. Or the first mosque that opens. Then the fukers will show their spots and just say that when they say “religious freedom” they really mean only, Christian freedom. When they say people should be able to be free go practice their religion, they really mean only Christians should be free to practice their religion. So why don’t they just say, only Christianity is a legal religion and we forbid other religions from being observed? You know they’d prefer to just put everyone else in conversion and internment camps but they’re outnumbered. For now.

  • gq

    its all fun and game until someone comes to school high on peyote

  • ncdavid

    By passing a law that condones harassment and bullying, the state of Tennessee is opening itself to be held responsible and sued whenever bullying or any kind of hate-crime takes place. I kinda wish I lived there so I could take part in the fleecing of Tennessee. No way will the Federal court system look kindly on Tennessee’s nonsense.

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