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Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing LGBT Students To Be Bullied In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’

by David Badash on March 25, 2014

in News,Religion

Post image for Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing LGBT Students To Be Bullied In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’

Religious conservatives are at it again. Tennessee governor Bill Haslam just received and will likely sign a bill that not only allows but actually helps organize anti-gay bullying in the name of “religious freedom.”

The Tennessee “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” allows students to use religion in any manner they choose, and mandates that their use of religion be protected.

At a basic level, a student could merely write “God” on a chemistry test as the answer to a question asking to where water comes from. A student could also stand in class and say their religion says that gay people are sinners and going to hell, and that speech would be legally protected. The bill states “a student may express beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. A student would not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.”

Creationists of course will love the bill.

But the more sinister part of the bill forces all students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of the popular kids.

LOOK: One Billion Of Your Tax Dollars Funds Anti-Science Religious Education Across The Nation

The ACLU warns that the bill, SB 1793/HB 1547, “crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students.”

Tennessee’s “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” actually mandates that schools allow students the use of public school facilities — including the school’s public address system, classrooms and school assemblies — and makes schools “[p]rovide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.”

An evangelical student, or example, could preach the gospel during a science class, or “witness” during English. Attacks on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are automatically protected under this bill, offering anti-gay students a state-sposored license to bully. And of course, a student could claim they worship Satan and subject their classmates to that “religious viewpoint” as well.

The bill, of course, likely violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but that rarely stops conservative lawmakers on a religious mission.

“Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs,” the ACLU warns. “Conversely, if a student of a minority religious faith (e.g., a Buddhist, a Wiccan, etc.) or a non-believer were to obtain a ‘position of honor,’ as defined under this bill, that student would be permitted to subject all classmates to prayer and proselytizing specific to his or her faith tradition in connection with school events. In both cases, parents would have no recourse to ensure that their children were not coerced into such religious exercise.”

Republican governor Bill Haslam hopefully will show moral courage and veto this bill. If he signs it, he’ll be forcing all Tennessee students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of their classmates, and forcing Tennessee into a costly battle in court.

But given that the Tennessee senate passed the bill yesterday on a 32-0 vote, and the House passed it 90-2, any veto Haslam considers likely will be overridden.

Tennessee is not alone. Oklahoma is in the process of passing its own “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,” and Texas, of course, already has one.


Image via Flickr.

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BearFlagCitizen March 25, 2014 at 11:18 am

"Onward Christian Soldiers!"

Nothing but Talibangelicals trying to force the Christian version of Shariah law upon the nation.

And my mother doesn't understand why I'm not a Christian anymore.

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 2:12 am

I do. You couldn't deal with honesty.

The Divine Grace March 27, 2014 at 7:55 am

There's a hotter place in Hell for you.

BearFlagCitizen March 27, 2014 at 8:32 am

<buzzer> Thank you for playing but we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

No, it's because I would not stoop to associate myself with self-centred snerts like you, who think the world revolves around them and thus should cater to them alone. The duplicitous who claim their religion and god is about love and charity, all the while using their religion as a weapon against anyone who is even marginally different than themselves and then feel smug and superior for doing so.

Christians act nothing like their christ.

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

Sounds more like you believe the world revolves around you.

What love and charity have you shown? Has it all been tinted with your hatred?

Selah991 March 27, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hold up kblakecash, he definitely has a point. Most Christians don't act anything like our Christ. There isn't any denying that, so we have no right to act out angrily towards someone who points out that very true fact. Where as there are many of us who try our best to act like Christ, love every one no mater what their sexual orientation or belief system is, most Christians very much so struggle with this, and are very big pro hatred supporters. We don't have to agree with certain things in order to act in love towards people who do.

It's our choice to believe what we believe, as well as their choice to believe what they believe.

BearFlagCitizen March 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

Matthew 6:1-8

My charity and love is between ME and my gods.

A real Christian would know that.

beefcakecash March 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Just curious, why do you even respond to someone who is obviously still eating paint chips (dipped in lead)? You're spot-on. Unfortunately, we have far too many crackpots in this country (people who use colorful phrases like "tinted with hatred" or "the world revolves around you"), most of them believing that their special interest is 100% correct, and all others are fallible. (I call those people "douche bags".) He or she (or it) probably got a nice nipple hard-on at the thought of being able to promulgate hatred of his or her own toward a "fringe" special interest group. Thank you for reaffirming my assertion that some people are myopic and will argue with any point that seems contrary to their own little view. Somebody has a rod up his or her butt (with a rod up its butt).

sinistar99 March 31, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Hahah "Talibangelicals!" Nice!

ebloode March 25, 2014 at 11:26 am

Are these public schools allowing this? Are they getting federal funding? I hope they are ready to have that cut off entirely. My taxes should not go to something like this. These kids need a modern education, not something from the middle ages.

It is 2014, right? Or was it 1314…I seem to be confused.

harmonikasavingsbonds March 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm

If you pull your kids from the public schools, your only other option would be charter schools, which our politicians have in the pockets.

Zack12 March 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Talk about imposing their lifestyle on everyone else.

BartDrom March 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Congratulation to the people of Tennessee. You have now set the new standard, lowered the bar, for civility, intellect, and education of your young.

Now states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas have a new low to aim for. Until then, they'll be able to say: "Yes, we're backward 3rd world states too, to whom education, reason, tolerance and civility are largely eschewed …but at least we aren't Tennessee."

BJLincoln March 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I would encourage my son to take every advantage to spread the word of Wicca.

And Americans wonder why we are so far behind other countries in math and science.

bndkllr2 March 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm

“a student may express beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. A student would not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.”

So, under this law, I could put out anti-Christian billboards and openly proclaim that Christians are deserving of eternal punishment by the true God Thor, and they would be okay with that? As long as my hate is a "religious" content. Only the dimest among us can't see that this law has a single-handed purpose aimed at encouraging anti-gay bigotry, NOT "religious freedom." It was crafted for and ONLY for a single purpose. They should rename it the "YOU'RE GOING TO OBEY MY BELIEFS OR ELSE!" law.

sfbob March 25, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I suppose the only reasonable response to your observation would be "Well, DUH! Of course!"

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

What part of a school assignment are you putting up billboards for?

A little old to be hanging around schools aren't you?

harmonikasavingsbonds March 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

How wonderful to see Tennessee so eager to rapidly race to the inside of the toilet bowl, just to set a good example for the rest of us. Can we legally ask this state to secede, along with Texas?

Jonny_Hellion March 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Badash's article is such deceptive CRAP! It's titled to suggest that this legislation was written and intended SPECIFICALLY for " allowing LGBT Students To Be Bullied In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’."

What utter NONSENSE!

The bill merely affirms freedom of religious speech within a school / classroom context, and affirms this freedom of speech for ALL students and ALL religions. It does NOTHING to allow bullying of ANY student for ANY reason. No responsible school allows bullying of any kind, and this bill does nothing to allow or encourage bullying of anyone. The bill actually ENHANCES tolerance and inclusion.

However, I certainly DO understand why particular individuals are upset at the passing of this bill: because it happens to also protect the free religious speech of CHRISTIAN students — and we all know how very much progressives despise God and any influence of Christianity on our culture.

zoebrain March 25, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Why do you despise Santa Claus and any influence of the sex goddess Aphrodite on our culture?

Having read the bill, it really depends on how its interpreted and implemented. Historically, the record strongly suggests that only the majority religion in any school will get a look-in.

Furthermore, how would a teacher know how to mark the simple question:
"Is the Sun closer to the Earth than the Moon, Y/N?" without knowing if the student is Hindu or not.

Or how about:
"The shape of the Earth is a) An oblate spheroid b) a flat disc c) a circle d) a square"?
Any of those answers could be correct, depending on the religion of the student.

"What is the distance of the Earth to the Sun?" – according to 3 Baruch, the Firmament is at an altitude of 463 cubits – about half the height of the Empire State building.

The conservative christian Pacific Justice Institute has already filed a complaint, now working its way through the Kansas courts, that teaching science (which assumes no supernatural intervention in experiments) provides a "hostile environment to those of faith" so should be prohibited.

That's the environment this bill is embedded in. With goodwill and reason, there'd be no problem. But as Martin Luther said, quite correctly, ""Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but — more frequently than not — struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God." – reason itself is prohibited by this bill.

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 10:57 am

Do hindus believe the moon is closer than the Sun?

zoebrain March 28, 2014 at 3:13 am

VISHNU PURANA says that sun is 800,000 miles and moon is 2,200,000 miles away from the earth respectively.

How many Hindus believe that, I don't know. But that's what their scripture says, just as Genesis says the Earth is covered by a transparent firmament keeping the waters above from flooding it.

Gay Seal Team 6 March 26, 2014 at 11:33 am

Why do religious people require so much 'affirmation'? Are you that insecure?

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is all the 'affirmation' you should require. Anything extra is just harassment of others who don't need or want to believe as you do, and don't feel particularly pleased about it being forced onto them.

Jonny_Hellion March 27, 2014 at 1:53 am

Apparently some students were being denied their religious free speech rights and/or being harassed because of their attempts to exercise their rights.

All students deserve religious free speech for all religions. Tolerance and inclusiveness — that's what we all want, correct?

Gay Seal Team 6 April 6, 2014 at 2:43 am

Jonny, religion belongs in the home and the church. Historically, that's how it has been, and that's how it should continue to be. Nothing is going to change my mind on that topic.

I'm not sure why everyone suddenly has a hard-on over this topic and needing to "affirm" rights that already exist. It's my firm belief that the Christian-right wing is trying to force Christianity on everyone, and this law is just another example of that.

Practice your religion in your own lives, not someone else's.

jaydoozle March 26, 2014 at 2:20 am

<div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-810171416"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(810171416)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="; style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(810171416)">Close MessageJust wait. These Christians will have the world's most exquisite fit when a Muslim starts interjecting their faith into the conversation. How quickly do you figure that they'd shut down a Satanist group? What if someone starts casting spells? I guess it'll be cool when a student walks out of an exam so she can go meditate and find their zen. When other religions have a voice, these Christians are not going to know what to do with it.

And that is why evangelicals are so short-sighted. They fail to see that by keeping religion out of schools, it is actually protecting them too! That means that an imam cannot come in and teach your children about Islam. It means some Jim Jones type cult can't recruit at your kids' school! It means you don't have some teacher trying to turn your kid into a couch-jumping Scientologist! Don't come crying when your child learns Taoist rituals to worship their dead ancestors. Also, heck, do you want some other kind of Christian teaching your kid stuff that contradicts with your brand of Christianity? Again, keeping religion out of schools PROTECTS EVERYONE.

Miryafa March 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Having read the bill, I think the article is almost completely wrong. "The Tennessee 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act' allows students to use religion in any manner they choose" No. Article 1: "The LEA shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the LEA treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject" (HB 1547) meaning only if it's relevant. Disruptive class activities are still disruptive. Article 2 covers public forums. Article 3 covers graduation events (like the valedictorians who were cut off). Article 4 is about homework, and the only questionable clause I see: "Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of religious content [in homework assignments]." That should probably be removed, because it's too general. Article 5 allows for prayer groups as school clubs.

I don't see anywhere that allows bullying based on religion. Please provide citation if I'm wrong so that I can see what I missed.

Roving_Richard March 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm

<div id="idc-comment-msg-div-810369828" class="idc-message"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(810369828)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="; style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(810369828)">Close MessageI feel that a serious mistake is made when you lump all Christians together as if they were per-programed robots. Each person is an individual with individual thoughts. Different congregations and sects have their own views. You do yourself a disservice. Even though your positioning is condoned, even encouraged by editors you discredit yourself and loose a majority of your person potential readers.
Basic reporting – When, Where, What, How – is not being present but rather personal or the editorial opinion is being presented disguised as reporting.
For clarity I need to add that I am not a Christian nor a member of any of the major religions of the world.

kblakecash March 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Hate mongering goes both ways wankers.

Did any of you bother to read the bill, which is linked in the article? If anything, the bill gives LGBT (is anyone all four of those?) students a public forum, but alas, nothing about any viewpoint is mentioned in the bill, so fill in the blanks with your paranoia and hate.

The Divine Grace March 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

Dear Bigot,

That reads "Lesbian AND/OR Gay AND/OR Bisexual AND/OR Transgender". Just because you act like a retarded hillbilly doesn't mean that everybody agrees with your ignorance.

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 11:02 am

Missing those AND/OR in LGBT, but go ahead and read something else that isn't there.

Just because you lack language skills doesn't require the rest of us to make up for your moronic assumptions, but since you've spelled it out with an "AND/OR", which includes the choice of AND, perhaps you'd like to answer the question, is anyone all four?

Oh, you just prefer name calling to an actual discussion

thejando March 26, 2014 at 6:34 pm

What is "separation of church and state"?

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 2:14 am

This bill is.

shiznaw March 28, 2014 at 2:13 am

I'm not seeing anything here in the bill itself that would subordinate gays or lesbians to that of second class citizens…

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

So the answer is "yes, everything in my life is tinted by the hatred I have for others"

Thanks for clearing that up

Selah991 March 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

That's how you can tell a real follower of Christ from one who likes the title.

Although, every one messes up on occasion.

beefcakecash March 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Hey, check out this "pundit's" profile, that might explain some things. Pretty much all contentious and argumentative, with very little tangible fact or substance. He or she would make a GREAT Congressperson!

BFCitizen, I am thankful for open-minded people like you who place narrow-mindedness on a platform … and kick it in the nuts. I loathe religious soapboxes perched precariously upon pusillanimous high horses!

Selah991 March 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

Well, no one would know that. It isn't anyone's place to judge whether you do or don't. That's for you to know, and change accordingly if you want to.

kblakecash March 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

I don't believe most Christians can be defined by a handful, any more than I believe most Muslims can be defined by the Taliban or most Gay people can be defined by queer nation.

How can I say these things? Because by following my faith I have friends who are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Atheist. I have loads of friends who are Gay and Lesbian, a few that are Bisexual, and one who is transgendered.

I know these people as decent human beings, who don't spread hate and make assumptions about groups they know nothing about. In return, they know (because they're intelligent human beings, and don't hide behind alias') That I am not every Christian, I am only one, and they are each only one LGBT person. We recognize the world isn't "us against them" but simply "us".

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