Religion Permits Bullying?

November 14, 2011

Political Theory


This past week in my hometown has been a devastating one.  Within just one week, two young men committed suicide, both graduates from Lake Orion High School.  During the four short years I spent at Lake Orion, there were a total of nine suicides, all current Lake Orion students or recent grads.  I sincerely believe this is an epidemic in my town, and I hope that my community can find a way to come together and prevent this from happening again.

A few years ago, students at Lake Orion came together after a sophomore at my school committed suicide.  This was a great effort on their part, and hopefully it was effective, but more still needs to be done.

That is why I am in support of Michigan’s new anti-bullying law, passed in the house, which will make bullying illegal in schools, and hopefully will reduce the number of children who feel like they have no where to turn.  While not all suicides are caused by bullying, a significant amount are, and we should do anything we can to lower that number.  The anti-bullying bill passed in the Michigan senate, however, included some controversial language, and some feel like it still allows bullying, only under religious and moral reasoning though.  This has upset Democratic lawmakers in the senate, for good reason:

I feel the language included in the senate bill deeply violates Locke’s view concerning toleration.  First, of all, Locke states that “no single, private, person has the right to be prejudice against another person because of his religion.”  So why is it that some republican law makers in the Michigan senate feel that as long as your degrading and vulgar actions against a person are rooted in your religion, you should be exempt from this law?  These kids that are being bullied are not supposed to be influenced by a religion that they don’t choose to be a part of.  I don’t understand why certain lawmakers would feel that it is necessary to protect any form of bullying in the first place.  Lock also states, a church is “a voluntary society of men.”  A kid attending a public school is not volunteering to be ridiculed and put down by other kids of a certain religion, and it makes me sick after seeing the devastating effects of bullying that lawmakers feel there needs to be any exceptions at all to this anti-bullying law.

Another important component of Locke is when he states no opinions “contrary to human society, or to those moral rules necessary to preservation of civil society are to be tolerated by the magistrate.”  Oddly enough, it seems like certain lawmakers in the Michigan senate are doing just the opposite, and making sure that harmful views of certain religions will still be protected by “the magistrate.”  Locke believes that it is within the government’s power to forbid any act that is politically harmful, so I am confused as to why lawmakers do not view the degrading effects of bullying as harmful when based on a religious standpoint?  Quite frankly I believe no form of bullying should be tolerated at all, religious or not, and I think Locke would agree.

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13 Comments on “Religion Permits Bullying?”

  1. ksaukas Says:

    I believe what is happening here is that many of the politicians that are proposing these exceptions for religious and moral reasons are playing to their constituents. The politician is in a position where they should be neutral and work for the best interest of the state, which I believe is a stance of no tolerance of bullying, but the individual citizen isn’t constrained by this duty of what is best for the state. The individual citizen is entitled to their own opinion and the individual citizen will vote whoever agrees with them into power. This may all be done despite the fact it may harm other individuals in the state.

    What we are probably seeing here is politicians “standing up” for the rights of their constituents that vote for them. These constituents are almost certainly Christian, and I know from personal experience from my family that many Christians feel attacked by laws that limit their expression of religion. In order to combat this perceived constraining of Christian values Christian voters now put politicians into power that will go against their duties to the overall well being to the state in order to please their voter base.

    We have laws and standards set in this nation to end intolerance, and to promote diversity of all types. But these need not be followed if the right politician is in place.

  2. bmauto21 Says:

    The statement that stood out to me was “Locke believes that it is within the government’s power to forbid any act that is politically harmful.” Coming from a predominantly Jewish area of New York, you are expected to not be subject to religious discrimination. All throughout high school and even in middle school it was common place to hear a joke made about Jewish people. We have all heard them when it comes to jokes. These jokes focus on stereotypes that include being cheap, having a lot of money, and being very religious. Throughout history the worst discriminations happened to Jewish people.
    The most famous of these actions was the holocaust and the Spanish inquisition. Jewish people are used as scapegoats for other people’s problems that don’t necessarily have any connection to the Jewish Religion. In my hometown there was a big controversy when they found swastika painted on the three Jewish temples in town. These people were eventually found and punished on the basis of a hate crime. Locke’s idea is clearly shown here to have effect and the government will not tolerate any kind of crime like this.
    Jewish people have always faced adversity and it is within the government’s right to punish those who refuse to follow the first amendment. By freedom of religion, the amendment does not only mean a freedom for a person to follow their own religion but to also respect others religious aspects even though you may not agree with it. Catholicism was generated from judaism and having a catholic who wrote swastikas all over my town just shows the ignorance of most people. While the law should protect people and punish those who do not follow it it is up to Jewish people and other minorities to embrace who they are and not let things like this bother them. I made that move by coming to a university which is religiously tolerant and joining a fraternity that is majority Jewish.

  3. mjgeis Says:

    This has been a hot topic among my Facebook friends since the discovery of that video you included in your post, and one of the most disturbing things about that is the arguments I have encountered in favor of religious and moral bullying. Some people contended that bullying will “weed out” the weak and make some stronger–this is a sentiment that strikes me as reprehensible.

    I am surprised by the “religious and moral” justification, actually, as this seems to be a self-contradictory sentiment. Many religions preach love, peace, and are against conflict (e.g. “turn the other cheek”), so this justification would be completely useless. The same goes for a “moral” reason–I see no morality in bullying, and therefore this justification to me is simply mystifying. I suppose that religious organizations haven’t been staunchly opposed to “bullying” (Inquisitioning) to get their way in the past, but there is still a fundamental contradiction between doctrine and the language of this law.

  4. godzillagti Says:

    I understand where the law makers are coming from. It is important to remember that Locke and his opinions aren’t law. The U.S. constitution gives citizens the freedom of expression and religion. This is why these law makers are not wanting to prevent children from expressing their freedom of religion. Children should be allowed to voice their opinions on religion to whoever they want. Even though Locke says that no opinions “contrary to human society, or to those moral rules necessary to preservation of civil society are to be tolerated by the magistrate,” does not mean that these law makers actually have the right to do so.
    Contrary to what I’ve just said, I strongly believe that any type of bullying should not be allowed in schools. Bullying, whether its verbal or physical can be life altering to a person’s personality. Schools should be much more strict on the students and teach them about the harm of bullying, but I don’t believe that it is the government’s job to enforce laws upon it. I agree with Locke and no one should be singled out because of their religion, but that is something to be monitored by the school, not by the government.

  5. Danielle Studenberg Says:

    I’m glad that a law has been passed in Michigan to stop bullying but I don’t know how effective it’s going to be. How is a law going to stop kids in school from teasing one another? Children don’t think about laws and long-term consequences while the whole action of bullying is subjective in the first place.

    In addition, how is anti-bullying going to be enforced? I remember that throughout elementary, middle, and high school there were mandatory programs we had to participate in about bullying and treating each other with respect. Although they were good in thought, in the long run our schools wasted their money because kids still were bullied everyday.

    On a different note, I do agree with you that the exception of bullying on religious grounds is ridiculous. How are we to categorize what “religious bullying” includes? Controversy is bound to happen regarding this loophole. For example, according to this new law it would be justifiable for Christians to bully homosexuals in school. Thus, this law to stop bullying isn’t stopping anything at all.

    I’m interested to hear if the law is revised in the future regarding the protection of religion, but I am happy overall for our government finally attempting to end bullying in schools.

  6. #jasonschwartz Says:

    Bullying is only a natural part of the human desire to create heirarchies. It is because of this that I am an advocate for this bill to not be passed. The reality is that there is no need for a law to be passed. Instead parents should talk to their children to help them understand why they shouldn’t bully others or why they should ignore bullies. This is an issue that can easily be avoided by a simple conversation of a simple smile. If you are going to outlaw bullying in school then think about all the other times when someone is going to get bullied in the world. At work, at social events, hell even at sporting events people always bully others who wear jerseys from the opposing team. We need to be exposed to bullying on some level in odrer to grow as human beings and identify our spot in the world. However, the fact that kids are acctually resorting to suicide nowadays I think is acctually really scarry and should be strongly curtailed. However, I don;t think bullying is the reason for all of this. I think that it is uncovering something much deeper and scarier that is shifting in the american personality. Take a look at my blog post “The ‘Social Network'”. I think that this breaking of american culture has a role to play in these serious issues.

    • mjgeis Says:

      I wonder, if you think that there is no need to pass a law like this one, then why not? There should be some reason that the act of bullying should not be condemned in order to justify getting rid of this legislation. I can see myriad reasons to condemn bullying: emotional and physical toll, lasting psychological effects, the destruction of innocence and self-esteem; I just can’t seem to find a reason that outweighs these costs. I personally disagree that bullying helps us “identify our spot in the world” unless of course that spot is directly under the cruel oppression of one or more tormentors. A law against bullying is something concrete, something that says very loudly how wrong bullying is, and I think it is an indispensable resource to the fight against bullying. Unless it contains an exception for religious and moral bullying…

  7. jeanrichmann Says:

    I believe that some portions of the anti-bullying laws are great. Bullying has become a prevalent issue in today’s society. Many persons, especially those of younger generations, are bullied physically or emotionally at some point throughout their lifetime. This bullying can in turn lead to negative effects such as suicide, which was previously stated above. Doing anything to prevent this harmful action seems to be a good thing. However, I do agree that allowing bullying towards individuals with similar religious backgrounds as ludicrous. Putting someone down and harming them physically and emotionally is wrong whether you agree with their religious affiliation or not. I strongly agree with Locke’s statement that no individual has the right to have prejudice against another individual based off of a religious background. Religion is not a defining factor of a person. Bullying a person based on their religious beliefs, whether they agree or not, is wrong. As Hobbes states, we will never know what is best for someone, or what is truly right. Humans will always have irreconcilable disagreements on what makes life worth living. As a society, we need to learn to accept these differences, rather than pick others apart because they do not act or believe in the same things. Allowing bullying based off of religion can create many problems, for example the Holocaust was based off of religious discriminations. If society does not learn from and correct their mistakes, history will repeat itself. Bullying or discrimination of any kind should not be permissible.

  8. adamstillman2011 Says:

    It seems very strange to me from a political sense that the Republicans would add the religious clause into the bill. It is basically saying that in some cases bullying is OK. That should never be the answer. I am a camp counselor during the summer. The children I work with are age 14-15, this is the time in a child’s life where they are the most insecure and vulnerable to bullying. I have seen bullying that has caused kids to cry and not want to come back to camp the next summer. Bullying should never be tolerated. There is no reason why a child needs to intentionally harass someone both emotionally and physically.

    In the case of this bill Republicans are allowing this to happen and giving bullys a legal loophole to continue what they are doing. If bullying is going to be ended once and for all, a zero tolerance policy needs to be implemented

  9. amgille Says:

    The day this law came was voted upon, I watched one of my best friends in college break down in tears. He is a homosexual who, during high school, experienced more bullying than I had ever thought possible. To listen to his stories, I am often thankful for the environment that I grew up in, and also full of sadness for the lives of students that are affected by bullies.

    When talking to him about the hearings, I discovered many things that I completely disagree with. I do not believe that religion should entitle someone to be able to bully another individual. Regardless of ones beliefs, this type of behavior should not be permitted in a public school setting, and this law seems to not only be allowing it, but giving it justification. I would agree with those that stated this language was directly used to rule out homosexuals from this ruling, however, how does that encourage the tolerance and acceptance that schools are supposed to instill in it’s students?

    The death of a student, regardless of their race, gender, or sexuality, should be seen in the same way across the board and should not be allowed due to this bill. A bully is a bully regardless of their reasons. In fact, their only reason is hatred, hatred of the things that they cannot control and will not accept. I believe that if bullying does lead to a students death, there should be measures against that individual. There should not be a safety net such as the one in this bill, and I truly hope that Michigan will realize and acknowledge this.

  10. nja91 Says:

    When you create a law, you cannot add clauses into the law that allow for exceptions. When you allow some people to be exempt from a law, you are essentially undermining the law and ensuring that people are going to go against it and probably just break it. “If this person doesn’t have to follow the law, why should I?” is what I’m thinking.

    In terms of religion being an exception to this anti-bullying law, I don’t really see how that makes sense. Bullying is unacceptable no matter what the reason behind it is. To use your “power” to intimidate or hurt others is morally wrong and unjustifiable, even by religion. To say that religion justifies bullying is very dangerous and disrespectful.

    Students are not just becoming depressed or dropping out of school. They are committing suicide and it is more often than not because of bullying. To say that religion permits bullying is a slap across the face to victims of bullying and to not completely ban it is a crime in my eyes.

  11. schoemad Says:

    When I heard that this act was being twisted into a nightmarish version of it’s original idea, I immediately emailed my mom and wrote, “What a monstrosity.” It seems like today the only thing that matters to some politicians is singling out the LGBT community and this act was no different. It basically would give young Christian children the right to use that one line from the Bible in order to harass and bully the kids who are possibly gay or lesbian. This really goes against what Locke believes regarding the separation of church and state. He believes that both are individual institutions that should never interact. Our nation was built in order to escape religious pressure and now our nation’s officials seem to be using religion as a way to separate the nation instead of unifying us all through our differences. It baffles me that there is still so much hate in the world and even in the United States.

    Bullying has also been an increasingly apparent problem in the United States especially with the suicides of many teens across the nation. One of the first kids that made the nation aware of this problem more recently went to a school near me. He was not someone I knew, but it still disgusted me that something like that could even happen to someone so near my home. These conservatives need to grow a heart and put the lives and feelings of children in front of their politics.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why Christmas Is A Sin | A Game of Roles - December 13, 2011

    […] This creates many problems in society bigger than just having Christmas as a holiday. Recently at Lake Orion High School in Michigan there has been an outbreak of suicides due to bullying. In a response to this and other suicides due to bullying the state of Michigan passed an anti-bullying law. However certain members of the Michigan Senate have added parts to the bill to allow religious or moral reasoning to permit bullying in a sense. This was brought up in an earlier post that I think was well written and you should read it (and comment upon it) here. […]

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