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Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing The Bullying of LGBT Students In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’

Posted by on Mar. 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM
  • 31 Replies

Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing The Bullying of LGBT Students In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam has just received a bill that allows and encourages anti-gay bullying in the name of “religious freedom.”

The Tennessee “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” allows students to use religion in any manner they choose, and protects their use of religion.

The ACLU warns that the bill, SB 1793/HB 1547, “crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students.”

“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,” the ACLU adds. “Conversely, if a student of a minority religious faith (e.g., a Buddhist, a Wiccan, etc.) or a non-believer were to obtain a ‘position of honor,’ as defined under this bill, that student would be permitted to subject all classmates to prayer and proselytizing specific to his or her faith tradition in connection with school events. In both cases, parents would have no recourse to ensure that their children were not coerced into such religious exercise.”

According to TheNewCivilRightsMovement:

At a basic level, a student could merely write “God” on a chemistry test as the answer to a question asking to where water comes from. A student could also stand in class and say their religion says that gay people are sinners and going to hell, and that speech would be legally protected. The bill states “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 their submissions. A student would not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.”

Creationists of course will love the bill.

But the more sinister part of the bill forces all students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of the popular kids.

Tennessee’s “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” actually mandates that schools allow students the use of public school facilities — including the school’s public address system, classrooms and school assemblies — and makes schools “[p]rovide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.”

An evangelical student, or example, could preach the gospel during a science class, or “witness” during English. Attacks on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are automatically protected under this bill, offering anti-gay students a state-sposored license to bully. And of course, a student could claim they worship Satan and subject their classmates to that “religious viewpoint” as well.

The bill, of course, likely violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but that rarely stops conservative lawmakers on a religious mission.

Republican governor Bill Haslam hopefully will show moral courage and veto this bill. If he signs it, he’ll be forcing all Tennessee students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of their classmates, and forcing Tennessee into a costly battle in court.

But given that the Tennessee senate passed the bill yesterday on a 32-0 vote, and the House passed it 90-2, any veto Haslam considers likely will be overridden.

by on Mar. 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM
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marchantmom06
by Bronze Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:09 AM
A student could also stand in class and say their religion says that gay people are sinners and going to hell, and that speech would be legally protected... Umm ok.
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Clairwil
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:34 AM

 

HB1547 

008766 

-1- 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE BILL 1547 

By Rogers 

 

 

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, 

Chapter 10 and Title 49, Chapter 6, relative to 

voluntary student expression of religious 

viewpoints in public schools. 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE: 

 SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Religious Viewpoints 

Antidiscrimination Act". 

 SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, is amended by adding 

the following as a new Part 18 thereto: 

 49-6-1801. An LEA shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious 

viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the LEA treats 

a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise 

permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious 

viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject. 

 49-6-1802. 

 (a) To ensure that an LEA does not discriminate against a student’s 

publicly stated voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, and to 

eliminate any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to 

the LEA of a student’s expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, an LEA shall 

adopt a policy that includes the establishment of a limited public forum for 

student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak. The 

policy regarding the limited public forum shall also require the LEA to:  

HB1547 

008766 

-2- 

 

 (1) Provide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate 

against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, 

on an otherwise permissible subject; 

 (2) Provide a method, based on neutral criteria, for the selection 

of student speakers at school events and graduation ceremonies; 

 (3) Ensure that a student speaker does not engage in speech that 

is obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, indecent or promotes illegal drug 

use; and 

 (4) State, in writing, orally, or both, that the student’s speech does 

not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the 

LEA. 

 (b) The LEA disclaimer required by subdivision (a)(4) shall be provided at 

all graduation ceremonies. The LEA shall also provide the disclaimer at any 

other event in which a student speaks publicly for as long as a need exists to 

dispel confusion over the LEA’s nonsponsorship of the student’s speech. 

 (c) Student expression on an otherwise permissible subject may not be 

excluded from the limited public forum because the subject is expressed from a 

religious viewpoint. 

 49-6-1803. Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, 

artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the 

religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments shall be 

judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other 

legitimate academic concerns identified by the LEA. Students may not be penalized or 

rewarded on account of the religious content of their work. 

 49-6-1804. Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, or other 

religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are 

permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. Religious  

 

 

 - 3 - 008766 

 

student groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is 

given to other noncurricular groups without discrimination based on the religious content 

of the students’ expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are 

permitted to advertise or announce meetings of their groups, the LEA may not 

discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech. An LEA may 

disclaim school sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events in a manner that neither 

favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or religious speech. 

 49-6-1805. An LEA shall adopt and implement a local policy regarding a limited 

public forum and voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints. If an LEA 

voluntarily adopts and follows the model policy governing voluntary religious expression 

in public schools as provided by § 49-6-1806, the LEA shall be in compliance with this 

part. 

 49-6-1806. For the purposes of this part, "model policy" means a local policy 

adopted by an LEA that is substantially identical to the following: 

ARTICLE I 

STUDENT EXPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINTS 

 The LEA shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious 

viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the 

LEA treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an 

otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student 

based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise 

permissible subject. 

ARTICLE II 

STUDENT SPEAKERS AT NONGRADUATION EVENTS 

 (a)  

 

 

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 (1) The LEA shall create a limited public forum for student 

speakers at all school events at which a student is to speak publicly. For 

each speaker, the LEA shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and 

appropriate to the occasion. Student speakers may introduce: 

 (A) Football games; 

 (B) Any other athletic events designated by the LEA; 

 (C) Opening announcements and greetings for the school 

day; and 

 (D) Any additional events designated by the LEA, which 

may include assemblies and pep rallies. 

 (2) The forum shall be limited in the manner provided by this 

policy. 

(b) 

(1) Only students in the highest two (2) grade levels of the school 

and who hold one (1) of the following positions of honor based on neutral 

criteria are eligible to use the limited public forum: 

 (A) Student council officers; 

 (B) Class officers of the highest grade level in the school; 

 (C) Captains of the football team; and 

 (D) Other students holding positions of honor as the LEA 

may designate. 

 (2) An eligible student shall be notified of the student’s eligibility, 

and a student who wishes to participate as an introducing speaker shall 

submit such student’s name to the student council or other designated 

body during an announced period of not less than three (3) days. The  

 

 

 - 5 - 008766 

 

announced period may be at the beginning of the school year, at the end 

of the preceding school year so student speakers are in place for the new 

year, or, if the selection process will be repeated each semester, at the 

beginning of each semester or at the end of the preceding semester so 

speakers are in place for the next semester. The names of the 

volunteering student speakers shall be randomly drawn until all names 

have been selected, and the names shall be listed in the order drawn. 

Each selected student will be matched chronologically to the event for 

which the student will be giving the introduction. Each student may speak 

for one (1) week at a time for all introductions of events that week, or 

rotate after each speaking event, or otherwise as determined by the LEA. 

The list of student speakers shall be chronologically repeated as needed, 

in the same order. The LEA may repeat the selection process each 

semester rather than once a year. 

(c) The subject of the student introductions shall be related to the 

purpose of the event and to the purpose of marking the opening of the event, 

honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance, bringing the 

audience to order, and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event. The 

subject shall be designated, a student shall stay on the subject, and the student 

may not engage in speech that is obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, indecent or 

promotes illegal drug use. The LEA shall treat a student’s voluntary expression 

of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same 

manner that the LEA treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other 

viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against  

 

 

 - 6 - 008766 

 

the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an 

otherwise permissible subject. 

(d) For as long as there is a need to dispel confusion over the 

nonsponsorship of the student’s speech, at each event in which a student will 

deliver an introduction, a disclaimer shall be stated in written or oral form, or 

both, such as: "The student giving the introduction for this event is a volunteering 

student selected on neutral criteria to introduce the event. The content of the 

introduction is the private expression of the student and does not reflect the 

endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the LEA." 

(e) Nothing in this policy eliminates the practice of having students, 

regardless of grade level, such as captains of various sports teams, student 

council officers, class officers, homecoming kings and queens, prom kings and 

queens, and the like, address school audiences in the normal course of their 

respective positions. The LEA shall create a limited public forum for the 

speakers and shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, 

if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the LEA treats a 

student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise 

permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a 

religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible 

subject. 

ARTICLE III 

STUDENT SPEAKERS AT GRADUATION EVENTS 

 (a) For graduation ceremonies the LEA shall create a limited public forum 

consisting of an opportunity for a student to speak to begin, and another student 

to speak to end, graduation ceremonies. For each speaker, the LEA shall set a  

 

 

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maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion. The forum shall 

be limited in the manner provided by this policy. 

(b) 

 (1) Only students who are graduating and who hold one (1) of the 

following neutral criteria positions of honor shall be eligible to use the 

limited public forum: 

 (A) Student council officers; 

 (B) Class officers of the graduating class; 

 (C) The top three (3) academically ranked graduates; or 

 (D) A shorter or longer list of student leaders as the LEA 

may designate. 

 (2) A student who otherwise has a speaking role in the graduation 

ceremonies is ineligible to give the opening and closing remarks. The 

names of the eligible volunteering students shall be randomly drawn. The 

first name drawn shall give the opening and the second name drawn shall 

give the closing. 

 (c) The topic of the opening and closing remarks shall be related to the 

purpose of the graduation ceremony and to the purpose of marking the opening 

and closing of the event, honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in 

attendance, bringing the audience to order, and focusing the audience on the 

purpose of the event. 

(d) 

(1) In addition to the students giving the opening and closing 

remarks, certain other students who have attained special positions of  

 

 

 - 8 - 008766 

 

honor based on neutral criteria, including the valedictorian, shall have 

speaking roles at graduation ceremonies. 

(2) For each speaker, the LEA shall set a maximum time limit 

reasonable and appropriate to the occasion and to the position held by 

the speaker. For this purpose, the LEA shall create a limited public forum 

for students to deliver their addresses. The subject of their addresses 

shall be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony, marking and 

honoring the occasion, honoring the participants and those in attendance, 

and the student’s perspective on purpose, achievement, life, school, 

graduation, and looking forward to the future. The subject shall be 

designated for each student speaker, the student shall stay on the 

subject, and the student may not engage in speech that is obscene, 

vulgar, offensively lewd, indecent or promotes illegal drug use. The LEA 

shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, 

on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the LEA treats a 

student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an 

otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the 

student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an 

otherwise permissible subject. 

(e) A written disclaimer shall be printed in the graduation program that 

provides as follows: 

 The students who will be speaking at the graduation ceremony 

were selected based on neutral criteria to deliver messages of the 

students’ own choices. The content of each student speaker’s message 

is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect any  

 

 

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position or expression of the LEA or the board of trustees, or the LEA’s 

administration, or employees of the LEA, or the views of any other 

graduate. The contents of these messages were prepared by the student 

volunteers, and the LEA refrained from any interaction with student 

speakers regarding the student speakers’ viewpoints on permissible 

subjects. 

ARTICLE IV 

RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION AND PRAYER IN CLASS ASSIGNMENTS 

 A student may express the student's beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, 

and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious 

content of the student's submission. Homework and classroom work shall be judged by 

ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate 

pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Students may not be penalized or 

rewarded on account of religious content. If a teacher’s assignment involves writing a 

poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a 

psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, 

and not be penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content. 

ARTICLE V 

ORGANIZED PRAYER GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES 

 (a) Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and other 

religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that 

students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and 

groups. Religious groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for 

assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups, without discrimination 

based on the religious content of the group’s expression.  

 

 

 - 10 - 008766 

 

(b) If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to 

advertise or announce the groups’ meetings, for example, by advertising in a 

student newspaper, putting up posters, making announcements on a student 

activities bulletin board or public address system, or handing out leaflets, school 

authorities may not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other 

religious speech. 

(c) School authorities may disclaim sponsorship of noncurricular groups 

and events; provided, they administer the disclaimer in a manner that does not 

favor or disfavor groups that meet to engage in prayer or other religious speech. 

 SECTION 3. If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or 

circumstances is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of 

the act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the 

provisions of this act are declared to be severable. 

 SECTION 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring 

it, and shall apply beginning in the 2014-2015 school year and each school year thereafter. 

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:45 AM
3 moms liked this

sleep

Clairwil
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:54 AM


Quoting Clairwil:



 49-6-1803. Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, 

artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the 

religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments shall be 

judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other 

legitimate academic concerns identified by the LEA. Students may not be penalized or 

rewarded on account of the religious content of their work. 

So I can see what that part is meant to achieve:

If the teacher says "draw a humanoid figure" to two students, and one draws an elf, while the other draws an angel, they should be judged on the pose, their brush strokes, the colour composition, etc.  Not on whether the figure chosen agrees or disagrees with the teacher's particular religious beliefs.


The question is whether that is all it achieves, or whether the letter of the law, as written, is open to interpretations that allow the undesirable type of thing mentioned in the OP.

Clairwil
by Gold Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 11:07 AM


Quoting Clairwil:


The LEA shall treat a student’s voluntary expression 

of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same 

manner that the LEA treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other 

viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against  

the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an 

otherwise permissible subject. 




The topic of the opening and closing remarks shall be related to the 

purpose of the graduation ceremony and to the purpose of marking the opening 

and closing of the event, honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in 

attendance, bringing the audience to order, and focusing the audience on the 

purpose of the event. 



the student shall stay on the 

subject, and the student may not engage in speech that is obscene, 

vulgar, offensively lewd, indecent or promotes illegal drug use 

It is worrying that the person drafting the law doesn't know what the word "secular" means.

And yes, from the way it has been worded, it will be quite permissible for everyone to be subjected to:

"Ladies and gentlemen, in order to honour this occasion, I ask you to bow your heads in prayer while I recite a prayer from my religion that I personally find uplifting.   Our father, who art in hell, damned be thy name.  Thy awful domination come, in thy claws shalt all souls scream" etc

numbr1wmn
by Nikki on Mar. 26, 2014 at 11:07 AM
2 moms liked this

Where does it say they can be bullied?

Sisteract
by Socialist Hippie on Mar. 26, 2014 at 11:14 AM
2 moms liked this

Wait until the Volunteer State finds our that not everyone (student) in TN is a heterosexual Baptist...

I can only imagine the din of many sphincters collectively slamming shut...and no recourse, riiiiiiiiiiight.

PamR
by Platinum Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 2:55 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting numbr1wmn:

Where does it say they can be bullied?

Having students openly express their disapproval of homosexuality and what they think will happen to gays, etc. etc. etc. could certainly be interpreted as bullying.  And leaves the door open for worse behavior to be tolerated.

Canvas_says
by Silver Member on Mar. 26, 2014 at 3:29 PM
3 moms liked this
Or it could be interpreted as freedom of speech.

Quoting PamR:

Quoting numbr1wmn:

Where does it say they can be bullied?

Having students openly express their disapproval of homosexuality and what they think will happen to gays, etc. etc. etc. could certainly be interpreted as bullying.  And leaves the door open for worse behavior to be tolerated.

Pema_Jampa
by 2HotTacoTini on Mar. 26, 2014 at 3:42 PM

"It means a student could proselytize during recess, preach creationism in biology class or hail Satan during a graduation speech."

SMH

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