BY ALEX MICH, Staff Columnist
Where do we draw the line between what is discriminatory and what is not? The wake of the recent uproar over Michigan’s Senate Bill 137 has me wondering about where that line really is. Again, the Michigan Senate Bill 137 is designed to stop bullying in school, though it includes the caveat that any comments of “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” are ruled out.
Of course, the pessimists have argued that our legislature is now in approval of a verbal mini-crusade by bullies all around Michigan. Students with symbols of their religious icons are giving wedgies to all of the non-believers. Essentially, from a physical standpoint, religious reasons for the pummeling that a victim would receive are not condoned by this law. Imagine if I was one of the surviving members of an ancient religious order that promotes human sacrifices. As a high school student, is any court of law going to tell me it’s okay to punch someone ‘till he bleeds because I have to drink his blood for some odd yet justifiable reason according to my faith (I am not actually of this religious sect)? If by some miracle the answer is yes, than clearly we have no faith left in humanity
As for verbal abuses, there is the possibility of some real danger. Perhaps, this is the source of such a huge uproar. For it is far easier to verbally abuse someone, yet it still can be managed. Ideally, it’s called multiculturalism teaching. You know…the process of teaching students how to get along with others and accept other opinions…that one. It is possible to teach such things (unless of course, its considered bullying for seeking to stop the pursuit of converting people to the one true religion).
Let’s assume that we applied this anti-bully law to our university. Why Not? It sounds like a great idea. What do we do with last week’s group of Christ’s Public Relations Committee? You may remember them — they had the megaphone and guitar and unabashedly mentioned how some of us were probably sinners. So as a student (with my silly human-sacrifice cult), if I choose to sit outside all day (I think I still have the right to do that?), and after one of them recognises me from class as the cult kid, he/she sees this as an opportunity to save my soul from eternal damnation. Now, this salesman or saleswoman is compelled by Jesus to do everything and anything to save my soul. They even try using peer pressure by garnering attention from students walking by to my deviant behaviour. Now, could I move from that spot…certainly, but why should I be forced to move? I have the right to sit there. Also, think about the students at the high school, do they have the luxury to move, and furthermore, why should they? So essentially, this entire ordeal is so stressful that I become to depressed to understand and agree with the thought process of Mr. Epling.
That is the essence of the fundamental problem with this bill. Assuming that we read this literally, they have the right to do this. And think about it, there was no malice intended. This person legitimately is trying to save your life. So again, is this individual protected by this clause? You did not say he/she is, did you? You really did, did you? Oh, you want to follow the letter of the law? At some point, the absolute freedom of expression one enjoys will infringe on someone else’s absolute freedom, too. The clause is designed to allow for people to say blunt comments that some may find offensive…but that does not condone this oppressive behaviour on one individual. Certainly, we have evolved enough to understand that such tactics can be defined as bullying. We are not attacking the religion (yes, you can call me a monster to my face and defend that statement and I cannot say that I am being bullied because that’s all you did); we are attacking the way to promote it. Certainly, this is excessive enough to not be protected by this clause. Does that mean that last week’s little mini hullabaloo is a form of bullying? Well, I am sure that may be taking it to the extreme, but it is fun to think about it for a bit.
The point is that we as a society should at least be able to determine the proper decorum for expressing our own unique opinions while at least having the ability to determine when one has crossed the line. At least that is my hope.
For moral convictions (that I assume are based entirely separate of the tainted irrational thought processes that occur in religion), I have to wonder where such rationality has gone in your thought process. These moral convictions ought to fall under the realm of rational thought, but on the slight chance there is some deep moral conviction that is under irrational thought, certainly we can find some way to judge rationally that it is wrong. Now, I understand that we have a terrible record of doing so. As a nation, we still do have issues, and judging by last week’s articles, clearly we are still on edge over that history. However, it is this generation that will be inheriting the Earth next. Certainly, we as a reasonable society can determine when someone is just utterly irrational, right?
Ah, who am I kidding? Overall, there is no faith in our judgment at all. The only hope I can offer is to have an unwavering irrational hope for human reason. Again, I can only reiterate that this clause is designed to protect dissenting opinion and not the actions that constitute bullying. I admit, the line is very hazy and I certainly have no idea where it is marked. However, I think we can at least find the rough outline of this line over time.
That is what the clause is designed to do. The clause is meant to only protect rational dissenting opinions, but it’s not to be used as a “loophole” for bullying. If we as a society cannot make that distinction without being tied into a legal battle, then certainly we are in a moral crisis.