Proposed bill in Tennessee would essentially legalize anti-LGBTQ bullying

No joke. Former Republican Senator David Fowler is pushing the Tennessee legislature to take up a new bill he’s proposed that would create a loophole in the current anti-bullying policies in the state that would — rather than protect students from being bullied — protect students’ right to bully. TPM reports:

The proposed bill would amend the state’s current anti-bullying laws to specify that the anti-bully policy should “not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and shall not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views” as long as there’s no physical threat or threat to another student’s property.

And specifically, as stated in a newsletter from Fowler’s organization, the Family Action Council of Tennessee, the legislation would “make sure [the law] protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.” So remember all the anti-LGBTQ bullying across the country that is playing a role in so many kids ending their lives? This dude wants to make it legally okay to do so.

The central tenants of this proposed legislation is actually already being implemented as “neutrality policies” in anti-bullying legislation across the country, the most recent being a Minnesota school district that directs school authorities to “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.” In the meantime, there have been seven school suicides in that very district over the last two years. (The district is being investigated by the Department of Justice.)

What’s important to remember is that these policies and Fowler’s bill is not really about free speech rights, but an explicit anti-LGBTQ agenda and attempt to block any policies that would actually make a difference. And considering this bill would be so broad to include protecting the “expression of religious, philosophical, or political views,” it could put a number of other students in danger as well; really, it would pretty much legalize bullying altogether. But make no mistake about it; this has nothing to do with protecting rights and everything to do with desperate attempts to protect and sustain bigotry — at the expense of students’ lives.

Join the Conversation

  • Andrew

    Stupid bill that ignores difference between free speech and harassment. Once you express hatred directly towards another person it crosses the line into threats or harassment.

  • toongrrl

    Wow, Fowler, very screwed up agenda. Do you know there will be a bunch of nasty kids that would use religion as a dumb excuse for bullying someone? “It’s against my religion!”

  • Dan

    Wait, a law that specifically protects people who say “homosexuality is a violation of my religion.” and nothing else?

    Bullying is NEVER the same thing as expressing one’s view. Neutrality means treating harassment of people the same regardless of sex, gender, or sexuality.

  • Smiley

    Hang on.

    If someones says ‘I disagree with homosexuality’, that is harassing someone?

    Surely that is not what the posters are saying, is it? If the person said that and added ‘… and I think Adam and Steve should not be allowed to live in my street’, then yes, that is harassment.

    But claiming that a general comment is harassment is over the top. If that were the case, then nothing at all could be discussed (imagine, if someone said that meat-eaters were murderers, they’d be locked up on the grounds of harassment or incitement to murder. You wouldn’t agree with that, would you?).

    • Angel H.

      False analogy is false. Many people can choose meat to be a part of their diet. No one chooses their sexuality. Saying you disagree with a part of someone over which they have no choice is harassment.

      • Smiley


        Hmm. Interesting.

        Harassment only extends to characteristics over which one has no control?

        So, stating that ‘Democrats are unAmerican’ is OK is it? Because someone can choose to be Democrat or Republican (or anything else).

        How about ‘Feminists are …’? If Feminists can choose to be or not to be, then Feminists cannot be harassed? I’m not sure you mean to say that!

  • Emily Alter

    This law gets in the way of teachers’ (and our society in general through them) ability to teach children basic civility and decency. For example, calling someone an epithet to their face, while a right, is nevertheless a violation of civility. Civility and decency used to be something that most Americans, including Republicans, agreed on.