I had not realized until a couple of days ago that our most honorable governor of this our fair Tennessee had signed a most unnecessary piece of so-called ‘legislation’ entitled Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. But sign it he did, on this past April 10. Another vulture feather in the coonskin cap of the Greatest State in the Land of the Free to go along with the one awarded for the thankfully failed Don’t Say Gay Bill.
It is the latter failed attempt at making homophobic bigotry not merely acceptable in the halls of Tennessee schools but real official policy and praiseworthy behavior that gives insight into the real motivations behind the former. To protect not religious speech but hate speech. Not a defense of anyone’s rights but of social dominance orientation and sociopathic entitlement.
Let me give y’all an example of how things could easily play out under this ill-conceived and completely unnecessary law.
Throughout my time at East Brainerd Elementary School, first through sixth grades, a teacher from outside came into our class once a week for Bible lessons. Yes, this was at a public school, from fall 1969 to summer 1975.
I am not endorsing this; absolute separation of church and state is something I have always believed in and advocated even at my most religious. Growing up I considered myself Republican because that’s what my parents were. I even helped campaign for Reagan in 1980, mostly because a girl I had a crush on in Mr. Cousin’s American Government class was campaigning for Carter. Then the Moral Majority and similar groups came to the fore soon after the election, and I left.
Part of the reason I didn’t see a conflict with having a Bible teacher in our public school at the time was that my teacher in first and second grade at the school was also my Sunday School teacher at St. Martin’s Episcopal. Both, incidentally, were within easy walking distance of our house on Walnut Grove/North Joiner Road.
One of my most memorable arguments (there were several) with this Bible teacher at school came when I was in sixth grade. This was either in the fall of 1974 or the spring of 1975. Mrs. Genung was our regular class teacher, and Malcolm Defriese was still principal back then, still had his grocery at the Crossroads in Westview.
The argument was over her assertion that black skin was the “Mark of Canaan” that all blacks wore as the stain of the sin of Canaan’s father Ham against Noah. I objected rather strenuously, and when my mom arrived at school after being called there (something she was not unfamiliar with), she backed me up.
My point in telling this story is to point out that under our legislature and governor approved Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, if a student made that assertion in a class speech or even before the whole school assembly, that assertion would be protected, and if part of an oral report could not be automatically failed.
Some might call the Tea Party Republicans who have taken over the GOP of our fair state as well as our entire government the American Taliban, Tennessee Chapter. In truth, however, they are nothing more than old unredeemed Bourbon Democrats recycled through a Tennessee Walking Horse.
No doubt part of their illogic is based on claims that they have to defend Christianity from a nonexistent war against it. However, first, that is not and never has been at any time a function of government in the United States of America. Second, there is no war on Christianity.
Christianity is no more under attack in this country than George Zimmerman (murderer of Trayvon Martin) and Michael Dunn (murderer of Jordan Davis) were when they were still sitting in their cars. No more than the ante-bellum property rights of slave owners. No more than white supremacists to discriminate against Afro-Americans in the days of the Jim Crow South.
First the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of gay kids in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, but I didn't protest because none of my kids were gay.
Then the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of Muslim kids in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, but I didn't protest because we're not Muslim.
Then the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of Latino kids in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, but I didn't protest because we're not Latino.
Then the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of kids of trade unionists in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, but I didn’t protest because I’m not in a trade union.
Then the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of Jewish kids in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, but I didn’t protest because I’m not Jewish.
Then the Tennessee legislature passed a law which was signed by the governor allowing the bullying of mixed race kids in schools in the name of protecting religious speech, and I finally took notice, because my kids are Irish-Kapampangan-Scottish-Sangley-English-Tagalog-Cherokee-Spanish, but when I looked around, no one was standing behind me to back me up.
An injury to one is an injury to all. Whoever harms the least of these little ones, it would be better for them to have a millstone to be tied around their neck and be drowned the sea.
Bullying is an act, not speech.
* * *
Did you even read the "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act?" It sure doesn't sound like it.
This "Act" allow students to express their opinion, students.
Roy L. Ellis
* * *
Chuck Hamilton, I have a question for you: Why do you hate evangelical Christians? Everything I can remember reading by you, you are trashing Christians. How many do you know personally to the extent you can judge their hearts and beliefs, I am speaking of Methodist, Presbyterians. Baptist, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, etc.? These believers make up most of the Christians in the country.
For your information I am an evangelical Christian; I have friends that are gay and they know I am a Christian and that I believe the scriptures are true. According to you, I have to believe the way you believe or I am a gay hater and a terrible person even though we have never met. There are scriptures that relate to those who cause dissension between people. If you personally know people who hate gays you should name them. I think the term I would use in regards to those who think and talk like you, "self righteous."
I would suggest you sit down with some evangelical Christians and ask them what they believe and why they believe it. Should you ever get the chance I would recommend you listen twice as much as you talk. Have a discussion not an argument, try to see and understand both sides.
N.D. Kennedy Sr.
* * *
Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have as Americans and should be protected vigilantly. If we start restricting what people can say, pretty soon we will find that people will be thrown in prison because they don't agree with what the current popular view might be at the time. These trends are wishy-washy and unstable and dependent on the whims of the masses.
People must be allowed to debate and reason and think, and you're trying to silence people. Even ignorant people must be allowed to speak their minds. It doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but it opens up an opportunity for dialogue. Just because someone disagrees with you, that doesn't mean that they hate you or are trying to abuse you in some way.