Yes, you heard me right, they passed an anti-bullying bill that made bullying acceptable. The Michigan state Senate had prepared an anti-bullying bill and were prepared to vote on it. But minutes before they voted, a group of lawmakers inserted special language into the bill to create an exemption. They added the phrase “this section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” With one line, they set us back 20 years. With one line they said that there actually were reasons that made the verbal abuse of others acceptable.
This, of course, created an uproar across the United States. Civilized people everywhere were horrified. Petitions were started, phone calls were made and the bill got shot down. But not by those that proposed and passed it in the first place. Instead, when the bill went over to the Michigan House of Representatives to be voted on, they caught the exemption that got slipped in, and killed the bill. The house then took one of their own bills and made some modifications to include the original intent of the anti-bullying law: “Protection for all, excuses for none.” This new bill has been passed by the House and is on its way back to the Senate to be voted on.
I am ecstatic that the bill got revised into something we, as a people, can be proud of. But, I don’t think it’s enough to simply rectify the bill itself. The Senators that snuck that language into the bill at the last minute need to be removed from office, as should all that voted to pass it.
We need elected officials that are going to propel this great nation of ours forward, not backward. We need elected officials that are of high standards and character, not deceitful. We need elected officials that will not accept abuse of others for any reason. “Protection for all, excuses for none.” To try and slip in a way to continue the abuse of certain groups or persons on the pretense of “First Amendment rights" is inexcusable and indefensible.
In an earlier column, I wrote about the tactic of “possible & plausible.” It’s a tactic that some may try to use on you to steer you away from the real reasons for their actions. This is a perfect example of this tactic. Those that tried to pull this off, as well as other misguided individuals, have tried to make us believe that this was about “First Amendment rights.”
To champion “First Amendment rights” is laudable and therefore difficult to disagree with. Even better - it hits us right at our patriotic core. It could certainly be made to look like this was their intention. But the moment you dig just a bit below the surface, and you realize that what they were really saying is that people “have a First Amendment right to abuse others,” the position quickly falls apart.
I’m all for free speech. If I choose to be in a conversation or debate or if I’m just walking down the street, I accept that I may hear views or words that offend me. I’m perfectly good with that. But it’s not OK to hurl your views at me with the intent to cause emotional harm or to degrade me. Using the current “hot button” example of gay marriage, there is a world of difference between “I wouldn’t choose that life style for myself” and “You are an abomination before God;” one is free speech, the other is an attack.
I have a hard time wrapping my head around any of this actually needing to be specifically stated. I live my life by a very simple concept. I treat others the way in which I would like them to treat me. Since I wouldn’t want anyone to abuse me verbally, I don’t do it to others - even if I disagree with them, even if I’m angry with them. This isn’t about first amendment rights, it’s about civility, which is currently sorely lacking in our society.
I’m sure that never in their wildest dreams did our founding fathers think it would be necessary to write into the Bill of Rights: “By the way, while exercising your rights to free speech - don’t abuse the privilege by using it to abuse each other. That’s not what we meant, and that’s not OK.