It was my sophomore year of high school and I had just moved from a town in Alaska of about six thousand people to a city in the Seattle area with about fifty thousand. It was a bit of a culture shock, but I quickly found a friend. She was in my Spanish class. She was funny and had some wild stories, which as I reflect on as an adult seem rather farfetched.
She told me one time about a friend of hers that was raped in a gas station bathroom. Her friend called her and she drove to pick up that friend. The only issue I had with that part of the story was that my classmate was only fifteen at the time of the story telling, so she had no license. Also at this time most cars were stick shift, so unless someone had taught her to drive it’s not like ten year old can just hop in the driver seat and take off as if it were a video game. Ya know.
Anyway, I don’t remember if it was the same girl or another girl she knew who had been raped, became pregnant, and kept the baby. My classmate looked at me searching for a response, but I had none. I thought it rather amazing that she personally knew someone that had gone through such an ordeal, because even then I knew that it was statistically improbable to not only be raped by a stranger but become pregnant from the one encounter. It was also odd that I had not come across such a news story in the paper because that’s the sort of thing I would have clipped. I’ve been a sick little fuck for a long time. I said nothing, so she continued by telling me that because of that one friend, she knows that anyone could do it and that abortion for any reason is just wrong. Wow. Talk about a logical fallacy. I certainly did not agree with that. I could never look a rape victim in the face and say they absolutely had to keep the resulting pregnancy to term. I was speechless.
Various stories like this went on for weeks. Some of them light and fun others more on the uuhh preachy side. Finally one day she asked me, “What religion are you?”
“I’m Catholic.” I said without hesitation. I had been and continued to be raised as Catholic at that point. I had no reason to say otherwise except that I had always had a hard time choking down the conflicting scriptures and that a deity would create human nature and then make moral rules that oppose it. You know, it’s the fine print I had issues with. The part no one else seems to read.
My classmate then says, “Oh I’m sorry.”
I laughed. I thought she was also Catholic. It’s sort of a common joke that the Catholic religion is a tough one to follow and that even the Catholics themselves feel bad they’re stuck with it.
She again said, “I’m so sorry for you.” But with a more serious tone.
I stopped laughing, “Why?”
“Because you’re going to hell.” She handed me a pamphlet and told me to read it. I glanced at it. I had no interest in reading her pamphlet. Whatever her religion was I knew it was nothing more than a spinoff of the one I had been raised in. I don’t know at what point I tossed it in the trash, but I’m sure it never made it home.
Now at no point did I ever feel bullied. Maybe let down by someone I thought of as a potential friend, but nothing I would cause me to commit suicide. I think most can see how this might make someone more religious feel bad. To tell a religious person in seriousness that they’re going to hell, well it’s rude to say the least. I could see someone with her beliefs, and the bluntness with which she told another Christian who didn’t follow her beliefs with lock-step exactness, telling another person their beliefs/lifestyle/manner in which they were born is an abomination. I can’t understand why the people that hold those beliefs feel compelled to push them onto others and I don’t think they should be separated from bullying laws. Harassing a person to tears or more is still harassment even if it happens to be motivated by religion.
In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer accused her colleagues of creating a blueprint for consequence-free bullying. “As passed today,” said Whitmer, “bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”
The bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” after Matt Epling, a Michigan student who committed suicide in 2002 after enduring prolonged bullying. Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, expressed his dismay in a Facebook post after the state senate vote on Wednesday. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying,” wrote Epling. “For years the line [from Republicans] has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in…was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions.”
Link to the amended version of the bill on the Michigan legislature’s website:
(8) This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian. This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.
If you disagree with this law, please email the people below. Please do this even if you live out of state or in a country other than the USA. You may want to mention that you will not visit Michigan or spend any money there if this bill making bullying a legal right passes. The bill name is Senate Bill No. 137.
Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, at Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov
Speaker of the House: JaseBolger@house.mi.gov
If you live in the state of Michigan, find your representative here and email them: http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/
Help stop this bill and you could be saving the lives of many people who are bullied to the point of suicide.