State Passes Bill “Allowing the Bullying of LGBT Students in the Name of Religious Freedom”
The Tennessee State legislature has passed a bill titled the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act and have sent it to governor Bill Haslam for his approval. According to LGBT news outlets, “the bill allows and encourages anti-gay bullying in the name of religious freedom.”
The ACLU has come out strongly against the bill, saying it “crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students.”
The ACLU released a statement, saying “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. 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.”
According to The New Civil Rights Movement, “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.”
The website also notes that “Attacks on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are automatically protected under this bill, offering anti-gay students a state-sponsored license to bully. And of course, a student could claim they worship Satan and subject their classmates to that “religious viewpoint” as well.”
The Governor has not stated whether he will sign the bill but it may not matter. The Tennessee Senate passed the bill by a unanimous 32-0 margin while the House overwhelmingly approved it with a 90-2 vote which means any veto can be overridden.