Tennessee governor Bill Haslam is the latest to receive antigay legislation based on religious freedom, only this time their homophobic rhetoric is in the school system. The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act essentially allows students to use religion in any manner they choose, including bullying classmates because of their sexual orientation.
The bill, which passed the senate on a 32-0 and the House on 90-2 vote, states that “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 there submissions. A student would not penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.”
Religious conservatives were at the forefront of the bill being sent to Haslam’s desk, but unlike other states where similar legislation was vetoed (like Arizona), many activists feel that this particular bill will pass despite the fact that it violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It’s clear through the unanimous votes in congress how the state feels about this issue – and the governor’s focus is always on his/her constituencies.
“While this bill is called the ‘Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,’ it would actually encourage discrimination against public school students who hold a variety of beliefs about religion,” The ACLU said, “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.”
In other words, LGBT bullying will be protected under the law should this bill pass if the assailants simply claim it violates their religion. But it also works both ways. Whether you’re a Christian or a Satanist, Tennessee’s bill offers bullies a license to demean nearly anyone in their path who offends their religious beliefs.
The root of this bill was spawned by antigay propaganda. Though on paper it might seem like they’re protecting their religious freedom, it seems like the need to suppress homosexuals blinds them from sheer common sense. With only 2 out of 132 congressmen voting no on the bill, its a pretty safe bet that Tennessee will be the first state to backtrack America’s progress towards equality.