Equal Rights For Bullies: Religious Right Comes To The Defense Of `Faith-Based' Harassment
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:52:50 AM EST

If you're the parent of young or teenaged kids, you're probably concerned about bullying. It's one of those unpleasant facts of life that just about everyone who has children must eventually confront.

Since children spend much of their time in school, these institutions are the focal point for anti-bullying efforts. Thankfully, the national conversation over this issue has become a lot more serious in recent years, and many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies.

This has alarmed the Religious Right. Groups like Focus on the Family (FOF) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are worried that fundamentalist Christian young people in public schools won't be able to properly harass gays, atheists and non-Christians if anti-bullying policies spread. So they've more or less formed a pro-bullying caucus designed to shoot down as many of the policies as possible.

A new FOF-ADF salvo takes the form of a document called the "Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick," which purports to help public school officials formulate policies that respect the rights of Christian students. In reality, FOF and the ADF are seeking to gut anti-bullying policies by making them utterly ineffective.

I was struck by a number of things about the document:

It attempts to carve out an exemption for protected "religious" bullying. In several states, Religious Right groups have attempted to exempt bullying and verbal harassment based on sincere religious beliefs. In other words, a fundamentalist Christian kid can harass a gay student as much as he wants as along as he sincerely believes what he is saying. Some yardstick there!

It seeks to gut reporting requirements. One way to combat bullying is to require that the people in charge - mainly teachers - report it when they see it. FOF and the ADF recommend dropping this requirement entirely. They claim this will somehow protect teachers from liability. In fact, it does just the opposite.

It advises school officials to ignore what kids do after hours or online. According to FOF and the ADF, school officials have no authority to respond to what students say or do online after school hours because this is free speech. So, if a bunch of students are using Facebook's chat feature to discuss how they plan to beat the tar out of Phil the next day because he's gay and a teacher gets wind of this, she's just supposed to throw up her hands and say, "Oh well, that's free speech!"

It tells schools they have no right to educate bullies about why their behavior is wrong. According to FOF and the ADF, such "re-education" is bad because it is designed to "change the way they think." Pardon my bluntness, but if young people have the belief that they can bully others, they need to change the way they think - and if they won't, they should be expelled.

It warns schools to avoid anti-bullying materials produced by "homosexual activist groups." Since many of the young people who are bullied in schools are gay (or perceived to be gay), it seems that the "homosexual activist groups" might have some special expertise in this area. Perhaps schools should listen to them.

What's most offensive about the FOF-ADF document is that it purports to outline the differences between "good" anti-bullying policies and "bad" ones. In fact, these organizations don't support any anti-bullying efforts at all. Schools that adopt their suggestions would be left with toothless policies that give budding fundamentalist bigots license to harass anyone they want. If they resort to physical violence, the school might be able to stop them - maybe.

And remember, this is being done in the name of the Christian faith. I'm very familiar with the "faith-based" initiative, but faith-based bullying is something new entirely. I don't claim to be a theologian, but I doubt Jesus would approve.

In fact, this is the gospel according to St. Ayn, the Friedmanists, and Mr. La Vey. 'Voe victis!" The weak deserve further punishment for being unable to defend themselves, and if they act collectively, that's cheatin'. They're supposed to be happy to be sawed iin half by their superiors, the way Marion Parker was by the superior William Hickman, and anything else is downright uppity.

by Rey Mohammed on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 02:31:43 PM EST

Apparently, the capacity of children to have civil conversation is beyond the comprehension of the conservative evangelical Christian punditry. The pundits all fall short in home training when they advocate that children should not be taught to behave themselves. Exactly why do the pundits think that children will stop at bullying the gay kids?

by NancyP on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 06:59:29 PM EST

the entire dominionist movement and all of the adherents as bullies.  It's inherent in their actions and worldview... they have to force Jesus (whether or not He wants people to do that - and I strongly suspect He considers it a sin as much as we do) on others.  They try to coerce others to follow their version of morality (as hypocritical as it is) and are abusive towards those who don't go along.  Look at what they're trying to do to women... to LGBT people... to atheists!  They're spiritual, emotional, mental, as well as physical bullies.  They even attack other Christians who don't follow their intolerant and unaccepting ideology.

Indeed, IMO the adults are just trying to extend the "freedoms" they "enjoy" to their kids... from my experiences they're just as bad at bullying (at the individual level), but more subtle and vicious about it (for the most part they do it so you cannot defend yourself or trace down the perpetrator).  Look how they're trying to use the law and our political system to abuse people!  The way it is done deflects criticism and blame at the individual level.

The sad thing is that in my experience, the "Good Christians" (of all denominations) were the worst bullies in the school... the more religious, the more they were abusive and hateful.  They're just imitating or mirroring their own parents and churches.  I was encouraged when the problem of bullying was starting to be addressed at the state and national level... as the saying goes "There but for the Grace of God go I" with regards to the Columbine shootings, which were the result of bullying (and from what I've read, primarily driven by and at the hands of "Good Christians").  This is worse than a step backward... no person, no child has a "right" to bully another, no matter what their religion says.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:26:39 AM EST

Since children are being given the right to say anything they want, so long as it's in the Bible, why can't we join in? Let's teach every child what the Bible has to say on the following Bible verses. Let's have them read aloud how, according to the Bible. . .

1. Non-Israelites could be taken as slaves for life and their children passed of as inheritance. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

2. A Hebrew slave was obligated for only six years of slavery but had to leave behind the wife his master gave him along with his children. (Exodus 21:2-6)

3. A master was allowed to savagely beat his slave so long as he or she did not die within a day or two. (Exodus 21:20-21 compare to Exodus 2:11-12)

4. A man could sell his daughter into permanent slavery. (Exodus 21:7-11)

5. Women got their hands cut off for defending their husbands if they pulled on his attacker's testicles. Deuteronomy 25:11-12

6. If an engaged or married woman was raped she was to be executed if she failed to scream. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

7. If a single woman was raped, her rapist was punished by being forced to marry her. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

by Villabolo on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 06:33:20 PM EST
I don't want to teach children the laws of Leviticus.  Too many of their parents want to impose it already.

by pcolsen on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 09:03:44 AM EST

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