A new bill requiring public schools to enforce anti-bullying policies passed through Michigan’s Senate on Thursday. Good news. Right?
But at the last minute, Republican lawmakers added an extra line to the bill saying that bullying on religious or moral grounds is exempt from punishment.
Seriously. This actually happened.
The bill allows students, teachers, and other school employees to use “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” as legal justification of their harassment.
As long as the bully took place on those grounds, it cannot be punished, regardless of how many times it happened or even if it continues.
The bill was already seriously flawed before this unconscionable line was added. Republicans only agreed to bring the bill to a vote if it did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they failed to act.
But by effectively legalizing bullying on religious and moral grounds, they have taken a law originally designed to protect children and turned it into a perfectly legal means of harassing a homosexual student by hiding behind Leviticus 20:13.
Had I included something like Michigan’s new law in the plot line of one of my novels, I suspect that my agent and editor would have scoffed at such an implausible notion.
But this isn’t fiction. And yet it’s real.
How could something like this happen?