That is, as long as it’s “Christian” bullying.
About a week ago, the Kentucky House Education Committee overwhelmingly passed HB 370, a bill expanding anti-bullying protections to cover gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. And by “overwhelmingly,” I mean 21-1. Pretty much everybody on the committee agreed – all students, even the gay ones, should be able to learn in an atmosphere free of bullying.
Enter Mike Harmon (R-Danville). Harmon - who believes being gay is a sin - has a different view on the proposed bill. Even though the anti-bullying language includes religion, he’s concerned the protections extended to gay students might discriminate against the good, moral, saved-'n-sanctified Christians who have a problem with their gay peers. Because, as we all know, the real victims are the fundamentalist Christians. Never mind Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, Asher Brown, Harrison Chase Brown, Raymond Chase, Caleb Nolt, Felix Sacco, and the countless other gay kids who have taken their lives because of bullying. Pity their bullies instead, whose bullying might be unfairly impeded by anti-bullying legislation.
Now that the bill has made it to the floor, Harmon has introduced an amendment allowing students with fundamentalist views on homosexuality to state their opposition to their gay peers freely and openly. As long as there is no physical harm or property damage.
Harmon has filed an amendment that would allow students to condemn other students' sexual preferences as long as that expression of a religious belief does not include physical harm or damaging property. "If someone, just in conversation, said, 'You know, I think homosexuality is a sin,' well we don't want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief," said Harmon, "And we don't want them, certainly don't want them to be labeled a bully just because they have that particular belief."
So it will be okay tell a gay kid in school that the Bible calls him/her an abomination. It might be perfectly fine to say, “I don’t approve of faggots’ lifestyle choice,” as long as a punch to the face doesn’t follow. Okay, I get it. Cool.
I’ve shared here on Daily Kos some of my experiences with bullying. I was bullied absolutely mercilessly during my middle school years. I was bullied for a number of reasons – being overweight and being gay among them. Of course, I wasn’t out, so I was bullied based on the perception that I was gay. I don’t want to think about what I would have endured had my peers known for a fact that I was gay.
The bullying I endured was almost all verbal. I never got beaten up. I just had to go to school every day and put up with kids who didn’t think much of gay people. Being called “faggot” was a daily occurrence. No, I was never punched or shoved into a locker or beaten by a group of kids. But the daily taunting, expressions of disapproval, and teacher/administrator negligence created an atmosphere of fear I had to live with every single day. I dreaded going to school. I went through hell during school hours, cried myself to sleep at night, and repeated. A lot of people in my life didn’t know the extent of what I dealt with, and those who did know didn’t care.
Bullying doesn’t have to be physical. Verbal bullying – yes, even bullying based on religious beliefs – may not leave bruises, but it creates an atmosphere in which physical bullying is made easier. And it has profound effects on the victims. I’m still dealing with the effects of what I went through in middle school. I don’t know if I’ll ever be “over” it.
Free speech is one thing – but an amendment that would actually encourage anti-gay bullying is not only not in the spirit of the bill, it’s downright sick. If somebody wants called an abomination, they can go to a fundamentalist church (been there and done that, too). School is supposed to be a learning environment. And in order to learn, kids have to feel safe.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), the sponsor of the bill, said it best: “I would ask Mike Harmon, what would Jesus do? Would he bully people based on religion? I don’t think so.”
We can only hope this amendment, which has nothing to do with school safety and everything to do with a Christianist "moral" agenda, is defeated. If you're in Kentucky, you might want to let your representative know how you feel.