A proposed change to a law in the state of Tennessee would protect students who speak out against homosexuality–as long as they claim to be doing it in the name of their religion.
According to local news channel WSMV, the bill is a top priority for the so-called Family Action Council of Tennessee. As the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, the group’s December newsletter proclaimed that it hoped “to make sure [the law] protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.”
David Fowler, the Family Action Council president, explains his group’s intentions: “The purpose is to stop bullying, not create special classes of people who are more important than others.”
The Tennessee LGBT community is still reeling over the suicide of Jacob Rogers, who took his own life in December. Jacob apparently killed himself after being subjected to hateful homophobic remarks at his high school.
LGBT advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project argues that the legislation would allow students to justify their irrational, hate-filled beliefs on religious grounds, according to the Associated Press.
“This kind of legislation can send a message that it’s ok to hate and we’ll even give you religious sanction for it,” Tennessee Equality Project official Chris Sanders told WSMV. “What if one student calls another one a sinner, or a sodomite or says you’re perverted or you’re unnatural or you are going to hell? That’s where it gets really dicey.”
The Family Action Council has attributed Jacob Rogers’ suicide to “the rotten fruit of the all-about-me individualist culture that comes when we deny the existence of God and his image in us.”
The council also blamed Jacob’s death on the young man’s alleged alcohol and drug problems as well as his reputed eating disorder.
It will be interesting to follow the progress of the Tennessee bill, particularly since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently gave a historic speech at the United Nations calling for the protection of LGBT people around the world, declaring: “Gay rights are human rights.”
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