With all the new hate crimes laws appearing across the country – led by Barack Obama’s federal plan that provides special protections for those who choose alternative sexual lifestyles – a family organization in Tennessee and several lawmakers there are proposing an amendment to the state’s anti-bullying law that would protect students’ First Amendment expressions of their religious or political views.
The media was outraged that such an idea even would be discussed.
“With God on their side: The Tennessee Pro-Bully Bill,” proclaimed the Huffington Post. Added CNN, “Critics say proposed Tenn. bill would enable harassment.” And from the Philadelphia Magazine came: “Bullying on Religious Grounds?”
The bill, being sponsored in this year’s legislature by Sen. Jim Tracy in the Senate and Rep. Vance Dennis in the state House, states the Tennessee anti-bullying restrictions “shall not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and shall not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views, provided, that such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or damage to a student’s property.”
David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a supporter of the plan, told WND the goal is simply to affirm “that all students deserve to be protected from bullying and that bullying is categorically inappropriate in Tennessee schools.”
“The second purpose is to set forth in the statutes for the guidance of administrators the parameters of the First Amendment rights that students have while in school, according to what the courts have said.”
The Huffington Post interpreted the bill this way: “A proposed change in a Tennessee law could protect students who engage in anti-gay bullying if they do so for religious reasons.”
“This kind of legislation can send a message that it’s OK to hate and we’ll even give you religious sanction for it,” Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project told WSMV-TV in Nashville. “What if one student calls another one a sinner, or a sodomite or says you’re perverted or you’re unnatural or you are going to hell? That’s where it gets really dicey.”
At the Examiner, Amanda Mole wrote the Tennessee plan “could allow bullying of homosexual students if it is religiously motivated.”
“If bullies are allowed to hide behind the ‘religious beliefs’ stipulation, the number of suicides could escalate,” she wrote.
A ThinkProgress headline said: “Tennessee conservatives seek protections for religious bullies.”
Fowler said it’s apparent that there are people in America who don’t like what the courts and the First Amendment say about the issue “and believe that respect for the First Amendment is tantamount to bullying.”
“All people are entitled to equal protection under the law, which doesn’t happen when the policies enumerate who’s protected and by implication those not listed are not protected,” he explained to WND.
He said the law makes clear the focus of the anti-bullying policies “should be to prevent bullying and not try to identify the characteristics of those who would be subject to bullying.”
He said the response from the media was not surprising.
“There are many in the media, and certainly there are interest groups, who want to use the government as the thought police and want to suppress any form of opposition, whether it rises to level of bullying or harassment or not. They simply want to squelch any dissent,” he said.
The goal should be, he said, to “not allow bullying. Period.”
“It is a sad commentary on our times that the opportunity for reasoned and informed civil debates seemingly has come to an end. What’s ironic is that many of those who want to protect people from insults have been using some of the most insulting language,” he said.
CNN reported that the law’s critics say it “will create an (sic) dangerous exemption that allows those who condemn homosexuality to openly harass gay students strictly because of their religious views without punishment.”
The proposal also defines harassment, intimidation or bullying as “any act that substantially and measurably interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities or performance, that takes place on school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation or at any officials school bus stop.”
It also has the effect of physically harming a student or damaging his property, placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or creating a “hostile educational environment,” the definition explains.
However, that “hostile” environment is not just “discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers.”
The bill also would not allow teaching materials for anti-bullying campaigns “that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory.”
The Family Action Council site explained that the way the bullying prevention programs now operate, “some students receiv[e] less protection from bullying than other students” and students are not allowed to express their religiously based views.
The current plan also allows “school administrators who may desire to suppress a student’s unpopular or politically incorrect views [to] deem that student’s expression of such views to be ‘creating a hostile educational environment,’” the organization said.
In Knox County’s district, for example, the stated policy would allow “a Christian student’s expression to another student from a different religious background, or simply during a class discussion, that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus could be deemed ‘harassment, intimidation or bullying’ and the student would be subject to discipline.”
Memphis schools also state that bullying is “any act, written, verbal or physical, or any electronic communication (i.e., cyber bullying) that substantially interferers (sic) with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities or performance [that is] motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, including but not limited to, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, a mental, physical or sensory disability, socio-economic or familial status…”
The council said in Memphis that “a Christian student’s expression to the effect that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, or a student’s expression based on his religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong, could be deemed ‘harassment, intimidation or bullying’ if a school administrator determined that the student’s comment was motivated by his or her perception of another student’s religion or other listed characteristic and that it interfered with the student’s ‘educational benefits, opportunities or performance.’”
WND reported recently on the alarm being raised by a developer of anti-bullying campaigns for schools, Marvin Nash of BullyingHurts.com, over the apparent takeover of the anti-bullying movement by those who advocate for homosexuality.
His Wyoming-based organization – which he runs as his alter-ego to his career as a professional rodeo clown – claims to be the first community service program in the country to present peer mentoring as the foundation of instructional awareness in the education of anti-bullying in the elementary classroom.
Nash told WND his program to undermine and defeat bullying is comprehensive, whether the victim is “green, orange, black, Chinese-American, Mexican-America or whatever.”
He warned that focusing on homosexual issues isn’t going to address the problem of bullying effectively, because there is more bullying among Hispanic students than among homosexuals.
“The little kid that stutters, the tall girl who wears glasses, kids who have old clothes” need help, he said. “LGBT is part of the issue, not the issue.”
That insight led Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, the group challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s federal law, to argue that homosexual advocacy groups are “one of the most intolerant groups in our society and viciously attack anyone who opposes their point of view.”
Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, also has written in her WND column that efforts to truly fight bullying are being hijacked by those who want to focus on preventing bullying of homosexuals.
“Deceit and deviance have entered the schoolyard and will bring vastly more tragedy unless we get wise,” she wrote. “All over the country, parents are discovering that ‘anti-bullying’ programs are a carte blanche for sexual-deviance promotion. Kids learn that unless they nod approvingly at homosexuality and gender-bending, they are all complicit in the worst damage that can ever happen to a fellow student.”
On the other side of the coin, police in Arlington Heights, Ill., told WND they were not classifying an Oct. 15, 2011, attack on a church as a “hate crime,” even though vandals hurled two chunks of concrete through a church window and threatened more aggression if the Christian group refused to “Quit the homophobic s—!”
Sgt. Mike Hernandez told WND about the crime captured by cameras at Christian Liberty Academy on the eve of a banquet intended to expose the homosexual activist agenda.
A vandal threw concrete bricks through the school’s entry with a message protesting the banquet, at which Scott Lively, “The Pink Swastika” author, was to speak.
“Shut down Lively,” the messages attached to the bricks said. “This is just a sample of what we will do if you don’t shut down Scott Lively and AFTAH (Americans for Truth).”
But authorities said those who hold biblical beliefs about homosexuality aren’t specifically protected in the state hate-crimes law.
The Thomas More Law Center earlier also said it has appealed its lawsuit over Obama’s federal “hate crimes” law to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“According to the Bible, which Plaintiffs promote through their religious activities, homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered. The Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that those who engage in homosexual acts ‘shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ stating further, ‘And such were some of you,’” the appeal explains.
“Plaintiffs believe and profess that homosexuality is an illicit lust forbidden by God, who said to His people Israel, ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.’ In every place that the Bible refers to homosexuality, the emphasis is upon the perversion of sexuality. The person engaging in homosexual behavior is guilty of ‘leaving the natural use of the woman,’ meaning that his behavior is ‘against nature,’ and thus contrary to God’s will.”
“In Old Testament times in Israel, God dealt severely with those who engaged in homosexual behavior. He warned His people through Moses, ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them,” the appeal continued.
“Consequently, Plaintiffs have ‘willfully’ engaged in, and will continue to ‘willfully’ engage in, conduct that is proscribed by the Hate Crimes Act because the Act does not limit its reach to physical acts of violence, but expressly includes within its reach so-called ‘hate’ speech and ‘hateful words,” thereby subjecting plaintiffs to federal investigation and punishment.”
The lawsuit, which has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was brought on behalf of Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, and Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette and James Combs.
The complaint contends that the “hate-crimes” law violates the plaintiffs’ civil rights, since it opens Christians to being the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for opposing or publicly criticizing the homosexual lifestyle and “gay” activism.
The law center pointed out that all 50 states already have criminal laws punishing violence against others, Attorney General Eric Holder himself admitted there is no evidence “hate crimes” were unpunished at the state level and in 2008, of the 1.38 million violent crimes reported, 243 dealt with the victim’s sexual orientation.
The Hate Crimes Act was dubbed by its critics as the “Pedophile Protection Act” after an amendment to explicitly prohibit pedophiles from being protected by the act was defeated by majority Democrats. During congressional debate, supporters argued that all “philias,” or alternative sexual lifestyles, should be protected.