January 28, 2012

Anti-Bullying Legislation Cannot Exempt Religiously-Motivated Bullying

stop bullyingIf you aren't familiar with Secular News Daily, you are missing out. Increasingly, I am finding that they are one of my go-to sources for breaking news on the subject of church-state separation and related matters. They recently posted an article by Lauren Anderson Youngblood, the Communications Manager of the Secular Coalition for America, suggesting that the case of Jessica Ahlquist highlights the need for considering how to protect youth who are subjected to religiously-based bullying.

You'll recall that Jessica is the 16 year-old who successfully sued to have a prayer banner removed from her school. Following her victory, she has been subjected to hatred, intimidation, and even threats of violence from some Christians. Unfortunately, this appears to be a fairly common occurrence in the aftermath of successful church-state suits.

Youngblood suggested,
If there was ever a case of bullying due to religious beliefs, this is it. It is situations like Ahlquist’s — and unfortunately so many more—that make comprehensive bullying legislation so important.
She noted that a proposed anti-bullying law in Michigan was abandoned after it was diluted to exempt religiously-motivated bullying but that a similar piece of legislation is under development in Tennessee. This one would also exempt religiously-motivated bullying. Kind of misses the point, doesn't it?

It seems that states are unwilling to enact meaningful anti-bullying legislation unless it explicitly exempts Christian students who want to bully LGBT students or non-Christian students. It will be interesting to see how federal efforts fare. Youngblood noted that both the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011 and the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 would prohibit bullying on the basis of religion.

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