Argh

#1
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ans ... _blog.html
Anti-bullying legislation just approved by the Michigan Senate has been denounced by the father of the teenager for whom it was named because, he said, it actually allows bullying to continue.

The legislation, called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” was named after Matt Epling, an honor-roll student who killed himself at the age of 14 in 2002 after being assaulted by bullies at his school.

The draft law, which passed the state Senate with 26 Republican votes against 11 Democratic votes and now advances to the lower house, includes language inserted before the vote that says the bill “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction” of a student or school worker.
I've been to the US more than a few times (North-East, primarily, so obviously milage may vary). It seems like a nice place, often more appealing than the UK. And then this sort of thing crops up, apparently driven by the religious lobby (go Republicans!).

I wonder what will happen when there's the first instance of a muslim bully telling a michigan-er that they will go to hell for being an infidel?

Re: Argh

#5
Because it's how this sort of thing works out, and has been for awhile. Come up with strict new anti-bullying law: get it shot down on First Amendment challenge.
Yet there are established limits on the First Amendment - for example, 'fighting words' as well as incitement, obscenity, defamation, etc.

Creating a specific opt-out for (what is fairly obviously) religious* bullying surely does no good beyond actively legitimising views such as homophobia (and not just that - anti-semitism, racism, sectarianism could all be seen as justified in Christian scripture) as a basis for bullying; if the bill itself is invalid under the first amendment, how does adding a religious exclusion clause suddenly make it valid? If you incite a riot, it's incitement whether or not the speech is calling for an intifada or the destruction of capitalism.

At least things like libel/slander laws consider the defence of truthfulness - the content of speech rather than the motivation.

*it may say 'religious or moral' reasons. But the latter would surely open the door to a multitude of spurious excuses - it would seem likely that the former is the true arbitrating factor here, and that in effect 'moral' is stated purely to water down the obvious connotative aspects of having religious exclusion.

Re: Argh

#6
Yet there are established limits on the First Amendment - for example, 'fighting words' as well as incitement, obscenity, defamation, etc.
This is true, but those limits are highly strict in definition. It is nearly impossible to push through anything regarding simple abuse and have it survive First Amendment scrutiny (c.f. Westboro Baptist Church picketing military funerals while spouting anti-gay slurs at the top of their lungs is protected by the First Amendment and the failure of every attempt to ban violent videogames ever).

First, you have discarded the actual text of the bill, which says "a sincerely held belief or moral conviction", not "my religious views"; this covers slightly more than religion. While the supporters may be religious in nature (or not, drawing that conclusion is premature) it's clear that the actual text will support far more than religious activity and it should be assessed as such.

Second, you have discarded the political motive in favor of the religious one. This law is not the first of its kind and it probably will not be the last. They are, in a sense, form letters, mostly written by the same people from state to state because it's their hobby horse issue and they want to be national figures. These are not, however, really competent people, and they are operating on moral indignation rather than with a legal grounding. The result is after the defeat in the last state, they tinker with the language a little and move on to the next state when the core of their proposed law is never going to survive being glanced at by a federal judge. Passing this law is a symbolic gesture, at best, and most of the people who participated in passing it are probably aware of this.

Third, this is an attempt to criminalize a behavior. As with most such attempts, a distinction is made between intent to commit or perpetuate and unintentional commission. This plays into number two above; acting from their indignation they have attempted to claim intent in all instances so they may justify greater punishment or demonization.
IAR
A Numbered Existence
In The Service
Monsters
SAMAS

Re: Argh

#7
Yet there are established limits on the First Amendment - for example, 'fighting words' as well as incitement, obscenity, defamation, etc.
This is true, but those limits are highly strict in definition. It is nearly impossible to push through anything regarding simple abuse and have it survive First Amendment scrutiny (c.f. Westboro Baptist Church picketing military funerals while spouting anti-gay slurs at the top of their lungs is protected by the First Amendment and the failure of every attempt to ban violent videogames ever).

First, you have discarded the actual text of the bill, which says "a sincerely held belief or moral conviction", not "my religious views"; this covers slightly more than religion. While the supporters may be religious in nature (or not, drawing that conclusion is premature) it's clear that the actual text will support far more than religious activity and it should be assessed as such.
“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 and parent or guardian.”
Second, you have discarded the political motive in favor of the religious one. This law is not the first of its kind and it probably will not be the last. They are, in a sense, form letters, mostly written by the same people from state to state because it's their hobby horse issue and they want to be national figures. These are not, however, really competent people, and they are operating on moral indignation rather than with a legal grounding. The result is after the defeat in the last state, they tinker with the language a little and move on to the next state when the core of their proposed law is never going to survive being glanced at by a federal judge. Passing this law is a symbolic gesture, at best, and most of the people who participated in passing it are probably aware of this.

Third, this is an attempt to criminalize a behavior. As with most such attempts, a distinction is made between intent to commit or perpetuate and unintentional commission. This plays into number two above; acting from their indignation they have attempted to claim intent in all instances so they may justify greater punishment or demonization.
But, how, precisely would a court differentiate between a sincere and insincere belief or conviction except in the case of corresponding to religion? The KKK can argue they have sincerely held beliefs- it would seem fairly implicit that the definitive defence (an a priori the definitive protection) would be on a religious basis, as this is the easiest to materially approve.

I'd argue that all criminal law can be seen as in some form restricting behaviour, though.

I'd also argue that, for the Republican party, the religious motivation is the political one, and vice-versa.

Re: Argh

#8
“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 and parent or guardian.”
Which still appends a whole other phrase of acceptable behavior.
But, how, precisely would a court differentiate between a sincere and insincere belief or conviction except in the case of corresponding to religion? The KKK can argue they have sincerely held beliefs- it would seem fairly implicit that the definitive defence (an a priori the definitive protection) would be on a religious basis, as this is the easiest to materially approve.
Actually, it's arguable the religious defense would be more difficult to prove than the KKK one. Going to church is no real guarantee of religious orthodoxy either held or actually practiced. (These are very large organizations with very large memberships and ranges of opinion; and many of them have no institutional controls to define and enforce an orthodoxy.) Membership in the KKK carries a lot more weight that your beliefs are where you say they are.

And in either case, such proof in a court of law is difficult or impossible, dependent solely on how much time and effort the prosecution is prepared to throw at you. Even a documented instance of the behavior in question can be introduced as evidence against in most cases on a number of passages operative in most Abhramic religions. (The prophet Micah's "To love justice, hate inequity, and walk humbly with your God" comes to mind, and doubtless I could introduce others.)
I'd argue that all criminal law can be seen as in some form restricting behaviour, though.
I didn't argue this point. You missed mine, which is that by claiming only sincerely held beliefs or morality can be considered legitimate and all other stuff is lies and only truly meant to be hurtful, thereby allowing them to appeal to greater penalties and demonization. (Whereas in reality the majority of bullying is closer to thoughtless than sadistic.)

This is symptomatic of the people who are behind this cause and their behavior.
I'd also argue that, for the Republican party, the religious motivation is the political one, and vice-versa.
Doubtful. This is not a stand on religion as much as it is on feel-good morality, much like the videogame bans peddled by the same sort of state-to-state political shysters. It was passed not with intent of making operative law, but a political statement.
IAR
A Numbered Existence
In The Service
Monsters
SAMAS
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