Michigan Republicans turned what was supposed to be a new law protecting victims of bullying into a law pretty much declaring open season on them, thanks to a last-minute clause exempting anyone who can provide a moral or religious reason for their harassment.
"Matt's School Safe Law," which just passed in the state Senate and is now moving on to the House of Representatives, is named after Matt Epling, a gay teenager who committed suicide as a result of bullying. However, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan explained that the bill had to include the "religious motivations" loophole to prevent it from becoming "a Trojan Horse for the homosexual agenda."
Since the addition of the new clause Democrats have dropped their formerly strong support for Matt's Safe School Law, and Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer called the bill "worse than doing nothing," explaining, "You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying. As passed today, bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it."
Epling's father also had harsh words:
“Rather than providing a blueprint for schools to handle the situation they have given students an easy out to assault, harass, belittle and harm fellow students with no recourse by the schools. Religion should never be used as a weapon and in no circumstance should a state entity ‘sanction’ violence in the name of religion."
In spite of all the outrage the bill is expected to pass, marking a huge setback for students, anti-bullying advocates, and anyone even vaguely interested in civil liberties or the separation of church and state. Good work, Michigan.