Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Senate Republican Bullying Law Disregards Michigan Constitution

I don't even have to wait for the news reports, I can tell you exactly what this says from the release from the Senate Democrats. Basically, you can cite your religious beliefs as an excuse for bullying people, and what would that be, besides the targeting of gays?

The Republicans, who wailed and obstructed anti-bullying legislation for years using the excuse that it would create a "protected class" by including sexual orientation, have turned around and created a protected class for bullies themselves.

Call it the Gary Glenn Bullying Act of 2011. Here's what the Democrats had to say:

Senate Democrats condemned Republicans for gutting a supposed “anti-bullying” bill that passed out of committee with bi-partisan support and turning it into legislation that gives students a license to bully. Under the Republican substitute to SB 137, a bully could continue to harass a student for any perceived bias and simply cite a “moral conviction” as a basis for doing so.

“The language in this legislation is disrespectful to the memory of the children who have committed suicide in this state due to bullying. Republicans clearly are not taking the bullying epidemic seriously,” said Senator John J. Gleason (D-Flushing). “The bill that was presented to us today offers no protections to our students and perpetuates a hostile environment in our schools.”

The Democrats cited obvious instances where bullies would be allowed to harass students based on perceived sexual characteristics without repercussion under this legislation, or allow a student to bully another based on different religious beliefs.

“To the families of the ten reported suicides that were directly linked to bullying and the countless others that have gone unreported, this bill adds insult to injury,” said Senator Glenn S. Anderson (D-Westland). “I have been working for years to pass legislation to provide a safe school environment for all of our students. This bill goes in the exact opposite direction and in fact provides a license to bully.”

Democrats attempted to move a more comprehensive bill that would prohibit bullying for any reason, however, this attempt to protect students failed to gain the Republican support needed to bring the all-inclusive Democratic bill up for a vote. Several Democratic amendments to improve the legislation were also defeated by the Republican majority.

"I'm a Christian, and the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, so I had to kick the shit out of this fag". Or atheist. Or whatever. You can hear it now.

This one is ripe for a lawsuit, too, first time it happens. It seems that by creating this "protected class" of bullies, you also have created the potential to sue on the grounds of discrimination. Codifying this by law might just be the ticket to seeing it thrown out for good - "establishment of religion" being one of those things that tends to draw a flag on the field.

The Michigan Constitution, 1963 version.

Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purpose. The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief.

Your Michigan Republican Legislature, wasting your time and money again. Anyone add up all the potential lawsuits yet?

Update: Here is the take from the DNews:

The law includes a section noting it doesn't abridge First Amendment free speech rights or prohibit expression of religious or moral viewpoints — a provision Democrats fear could be used to justify harassment of gay, lesbian or transgendered students.

"I am ashamed that this could be Michigan's bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a 'bullying is OK in Michigan law,'" Kevin Eplinger, Matt's father, wrote in a letter read to Senate Republican during Wednesday's session.

Would love to get a constitutional lawyer's take on this. It seems to me that by specifically designating "religious or moral viewpoints" by language, you have "enlarged" one person's civil and political rights on account of his religious belief. Interesting court battle, that's for sure.