Using Religious, Philosophical and Political Views to Excuse Bullying

“What must we do to win? We must educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate.”

-       Rick Santorum, March 2007 at David Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Campus Awareness Week.”

“There is no crime for those who have Christ.”

-       Shenoute, Egyptian monk, fifth century C.E.

People have the right to believe what they want to believe. The Constitution’s First Amendment protections contained in the  Establishment clause guarantee that. But that means everybody has a right to believe what they want to believe. To hear Christian fundamentalists talk, these protections extend only to them, not to Islam, not to Mormons, and certainly not to pissant Heathens like yours truly, let alone to gays, atheists and other undesirables.

This is the axis around which revolves fundamentalist opposition to anti-bullying legislation. Just as when fundamentalists talk about religious freedom they mean only their religious freedom, when they talk about anti-bullying legislation they see as the real victims of bullying – “true believers” who are being persecuted for their beliefs. This one-directional concept of freedom isn’t in keeping with the Constitution.

What fundamentalists want you to worry about is not the First Amendment but about their god’s wrath. They want you to be thinking not in terms of freedoms, as the Founding Fathers intended via their very secular Constitution, but about brimstone and hellfire, birds falling out of the sky, floods and tornadoes and hurricanes. Rather than celebrating our freedoms, we should fear them.

Robert Jeffress of the Southern Baptist Convention (who supports Rick Perry, by the way) takes a different tack than Bryan Fischer, who claims the First Amendment’s Establishment clause establishes Christianity as America’s state religion. Jeffress, reports Right Wing Watch, maintains that our First Amendment protections will “kindle the anger of God against us.”

Jeffress is very angry that the Air Force Academy, long an Evangelical stronghold, has in accord with the spirit of the First Amendment made it possible for people other than Christians to worship according to their beliefs. Christians there have a very expensive chapel ($3.5 million); fundamentalists like Jeffress resent a simple circle of stones, very inexpensive ($80k) by comparison, for Pagans.

Says Jeffress:

Although our Constitution grants every citizen the right to worship or not worship any god he chooses, that right in no way changes God’s attitude toward idolatry. God does not change. Any nation that chooses to publicly renounce the true God in order to embrace and elevate other gods is going to face God’s judgment. That is what the Word of God says. And I closed that editorial in the Washington Post by saying, how ironic that the Air Force, which is trying to protect our nation against terrorist attacks, how ironic that our nation is doing the very thing that is guaranteed to kindle the anger of God against us.

And ladies and gentlemen, when God chooses to judge us, remember how he did it with Israel? He used a pagan nation that worshipped pagan gods to bring his punishment on Israel. And I believe he will do the same with us, and when he chooses to do that, no military power, no matter how strong we are, will be able to protect us against the judgment of Almighty God.

It is not really that the United States or the U.S. Constitution renounce Jeffress’ god. In the case of the U.S. Constitution, it simply ignores his existence and that of any books or laws claiming to be inspired or authored by him. Nor does the United States renounce Jeffress’ god or “embrace and elevate other gods.” It is simply that no god can have a privileged position according to the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of any particular religion.

What Jeffress and his colleagues are advocating against the law of the land. They are threatening us that if we don’t change the law, we will all be destroyed. He wants to mandate a privileged position for his beliefs (Jeffress isn’t alone. As Right Wing Watch reports, “Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) has ripped into the Air Force for its equal treatment of religious minorities and televangelist John Hagee has claimed that pagan worship in the military is the reason why the U.S. is unable to win wars).

And this is where we come to anti-bullying laws and fundamentalist opposition to such laws.

Anti-bullying law have been called “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists’] special rights agenda into law” (the Michigan Family Association), and would “promote acceptance of homosexuality.” (Minnesota Family Council) or that “bullying prevention is being “hijacked by activists who are politicizing or sexualizing the issue” (Focus on the Family). Apparently, however, its quite all right for religious activists to hijack bullying prevention.

In November 2011, the Michigan State Senate passed a “license to bully” bill (SB 137) which allows bulling by hose who have a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” In full:  “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.” The language was eventually stripped from the bill.

A similar attempt to okay religious-based bullying is now underfoot in Tennessee, which is promoting its own “license to bully” bill, HB 1153:

“‘Creating a hostile educational environment’ shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.” The bill goes on to say that  “The policy shall 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; provided, that such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or damage to a student’s property.”

The bill’s agenda is made abundantly clear by the following:

“Harassment, intimidation, or bullying prevention task forces, programs, and other initiatives formed by school districts, including any curriculum adopted for such purposes, shall not include materials or training that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice as defined in 4-21-102(4).”

While the Constitution gives people the right to believe what they want, it does not give them the right to act as they want. You are free to believe homosexuality is wrong, even to believe that you god says it is wrong and that it will lead to destruction. But you are not free to harass or beat people or even kill them, or force them into suicide, because you believe that (Right Wing Watch reminds us that Jeffress previously “claimed that a school shooting in Kentucky was divine retribution for a series of Supreme Court decisions on prayer in public schools”).  These Republican laws are basically a Bushian signing statement saying, “These laws don’t apply to us,” yet another attempt to privilege Christian belief above those of all other American citizens and even above the Constitution itself. Look at Newt Gingrich yesterday claiming that even asking questions about gay rights are “anti-Christian bigotry.”

In fifth century Egypt, an Egyptian monk, Shenoute, burned down and ransacked a Pagan landowner’s home. Accused by the magistrate of lesteia (banditry) Shenoute, like the Republican lawmakers in Michigan and Tennessee, claimed the right of his beliefs: “there is no crime for those who have Christ. As one scholar has written, “The statement neatly expresses a paradigm of religious extremism, a belief that righteous zeal for God transcended considerations of worldly law and order.”[1]

The whole thing makes you wonder about Anders Breivik and the debate over his mental status. Previously said to be psychotic, a new assessment rules the opposite. The previous assessment said he lived in his “‘own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions.'” Brevik’s condition can be applied on a larger scale, to all Christian fundamentalists, who seem to share with Breivik residence in a delusional universe, where the reality they insist on is not the reality they are operating in. If Breivik is psychotic, then so is was Shenoute, and so is Jeffress, Fischer, Santorum (see his quote at the head of this article), and all our other fundamentalists and the presidential hopefuls they support.

Note: My thanks to our community moderator Shiva bringing to my attention the Santorum quote which opens this piece.

 Updated 1.8.12 12:46 pm for Gingrich debate comments of 1.7.11.


[1] Michael Gaddis, There is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (University of California Press, 2005), 1.

26 Replies to “Using Religious, Philosophical and Political Views to Excuse Bullying”

  1. Yeah, that “eradicate” part chimes in neatly with “no crimes for those who have Christ”, doesn’t it?

  2. It seems to me that the Crazy Christians (as opposed to the ones that show some good sense) would be encouraging the heathens, atheists, Muslems etc. to continue in their ungodly pursuits. That might speed the flood or tornado that god sents to destroy everyone but god’s chosen.

  3. Where to start…

    …”While the Constitution gives people the right to believe what they want, it does not give them the right to act as they want…

    That is the crux of the entire ordeal we are being forced to endure; as the old mantra goes, “It’s not about the belief, it’s about the BEHAVIOR”.

    These are people who cannot figure out what it means to behave within civilization (not just a community or society, the whole “enchiladas”); they are no different than the plains men on the Steepes in 800BC who figured out that working the land was “harder” and less fun than “pillage and rape”, AND, used the 6-armed goddess Indira (Indra was the god of storms) as their justification to reign terror on those who were “civilized”…peace was for those who created human “boundaries”, both physically emotionally, and, most importantly, spiritually.

    Today’s modern no-boundary savages who use a sky-god to justify terrifying other humans are no different than their ancestors, but with one exception–there are more people on the planet and more weapons than horse-driven chariots/spears by which they “bullied”…it’s not that there are more of “them” but more modern means for them to be “mobile”…
    (media’s tentacles are used to grab our minds by the emotional testicles and squeeze until we “do” or buy with no boundaries on our limitations).

    (Gotta go to work, great job Hraf, don’t you ever sleep?)

  4. Convert or kill. That is the dominionist way. That extends to more than physical death, it also could mean the death of freedom, the death of relationships, the death of a soul.

    They want the right to shove their version of the Bible down everyone elses’ throat. Many times have they said when I complained about their words “God must be convicting you. If it wasn’t true, you wouldn’t be uncomfortable!

  5. HH and Others,

    Thanks to each of you for you comments regarding this very serious issue here in Tennessee~

    I actually live in Ashland City, Tennessee, about two miles from the Cheatham County Central High School where this lovely young man attended school. This little burg is 30 miles north of Nashville and has a population of about 3,000. When this occurred, the entire town came out for the memorial and appeared “shocked” that this would have occurred here – we shall see what happens in the future – there are a lot of rednecks and lots of churches and lots of people claiming to be Xtians…In my mind from following the local news around here, the Director of Schools, a new hire, holds a lot of responsibility for this child’s torment – he KNEW about it, ADMITS he knew about, and did NOTHING. In fact, since the day the man was hired, he has been a source of lots of problems, his first act was to employ his girlfriend….

    The Baggerz elected here have overreached on each and every issue and they will be gone next year – wish we could rid ourselves of our BigOil Guv and the the Lt. Guv is a complete imbecile….that man is as corrupt as any politician could possibly be and should be imprisoned.

    Hopefully, this law will NOT go forward – the OWS people are still camping in Legislative Plaza in Nashville and have no plans of leaving, despite the weather…..much to be misery of the General Assembly members who have to see them every day the Leg is in session…

  6. Of course, the Dissocialists do not want bullying outlawed. Without it, they’d have a helluva hard time making people do what they want.

  7. I remember a comment made by a “Good Christian” when I said that preaching against living people was spiritual murder and evil.

    She said “How could we control them if we didn’t preach against them?”

    It’s all about control and coercing obedience.

  8. “How dare you arrest me, Officer. I’m philosophically opposed to traffic signs and the Bible says I only have to obey God’s laws.”

    “Too bad I hit a child, my bad.”

  9. I belong to the First Church of Bob, and as the Lord our Bob says in the Boble (our holy book)”Fundamentalists are an abomination, and thou shall not suffer a Bitch to live.” Sooo… as I read this, we should go to Tennessee to confront the Fundies and their heretical agenda before they destroy the moral fabric of our society. After all, we are a Bobulan nation.

    May Bob have mercy on their soles…

  10. I first heard of this law years ago before it was adopted and I was against it then an still am this country was built on strength and strong moral convictions of the holy bible this coddling of all groups an special interests will be the demise of this great nation I was raised in a devoute Christian home and family generations of my family fought for this country all the way back to the revolutionary war I was taught from little on up the strong survive this is a rule of nature homosexuallity is just not normal or natural even though it occures in nature it’s been coddled and protected to survive without this it would not flourish the stronger hetoralsexual society would have snuffed these queers out but they used governmental paths and powers to protect them now this is where this bullying law is going this is the attempt of these same people to cram their beliefs down the throats of normal Americans why don’t my family an my friends an myself need this type of protection and coddling to make it thru life we were all bullied one time or another but u learn and adapt and become stronger this will turn our society into helpless babies an weakness will be protected our country will fall to stronger nations one question for u all all these new laws in the past 30 40 years to protect all types of special interests but yet we r weaker and worse off then years before HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS COUNTRY BECOME THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD BEFORE WE HAD ALL THESE LAWS ? Because the people were tough and strong and did what needed to be done because they had to there was no safety nets u did or u died that’s it THE STRONG SURVIVE . I strongly oppose any type of law that coddles our society

  11. Well, the sensible Christians who don’t believe God has a “chosen” anything, are working to stop one and only one thing: the idea that anyone has the right to do harm to others, period. Christians back the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in their effort to stop government-sponsored Christian domination of any and all military operations. We support hate crime laws and anti-bullying laws and policies because while you have the right to SAY anything you like, it ENDS when it becomes harassment. That is the nature of First Amendment freedoms. My rights end at your nose. Your rights end at mine. Dominionism is a very new idea in America – and it requires a total change in how you read the Constitution, a desire to have embedded INequality giving Dominionists ALL the rights and the rest of us none. Since that is not remotely consistent with Constitutional law, they have to reword interpretations of the First Amendment, change the entire history of this nation, all in defense of what? Their right to do you harm.

    They ramp up “persecution” stories – pastors preaching against homosexuality will be rounded up and imprisoned! – and decide that laws that once applied equally to us all now are being used to single them out, poor, persecuted souls.

    Well, it’s not accurate, and it comes back to the fact that they are themselves not Christian. They are “Old Testamentarians” who use Jesus as a “get out of jail free” card but would not DREAM of following the teachings. They need to pay attention to the New Testament if they claim Christianity because they do not. The Old Testamentarians are a new sect, one incompatible with democracy, and that alone should give people pause. When you decide that the Great Experiment of a nation of equals is now dead, maybe it’s time for you to move on. The rest of us like it here.

  12. Then you better get rid of the First Amendment that protects this drivel you write, the Second that coddles you even if you’re too stupid to have a gun, the Fourth that protects you from the rest of us who KNOW you’re too stupid to own a gun but can’t take it from you, and the fifth that keeps you from having to testify against yourself, although you just did.

    Rights are not “coddling”. Protecting people from lynch mobs, bullies, damn fools who think God told them to kill doctors, from idiots who think because they have white skin they’re better even without evidence of same. It means we’re a society that does not let people die at the hands of other people whose stupidity about their own superiority gives them license to do harm. If we don’t have those laws – laws that protect YOU from us, too – it’s Darwinian war of all against all. And buddy – that ain’t the promise of America. It’s also NOT the promise of Christianity. Go read Galatians thoroughly – you will discover a lot of what you think is Christian is NOT and the you probably aren’t a Christian at all. You sure are struggling to be an American. Your rap is Darwinian – survival of the fittest – but we know that a civilized society takes care of all. “As ye do to the least of these, you do unto me.” Now take your phony religiosity and phony Americanism, and LEARN a little about both. You’re free to spew your garbage. And we are free to tell you how idiotic it is. Have a great day.

  13. …”I was raised in a devoute Christian home and family generations of my family fought for this country all the way back to the revolutionary war I was taught from little on up the strong survive…”

    What is “devoute” or did you mean, devout? Does that mean you are totally committed to a cause or belief? Really…do you really walk the walk and talk the talk? I don’t think so…

    So, you say you belong to a Christian religion as a “believer” in the Christ. Isn’t it true that devout Christians follow Christ and ALL the teachings of Christ exclusively so, how can you be a “disciple” of Christ with core values that aren’t Christian? Don’t all “devout” Christians believe that they are “disciples” and not mere Catholics or an Episcopalian, some identifiable label that encompasses the actual teachings, not printed material?

    Doesn’t it mean to be a follower of Christ a person is bound to emulate Christ in his daily life? This would manifest itself outwardly as charity, prayer, humility, and active participation in church. In order to be a devoted follower of a Christ the “leader” or deity (in this case, both) of his teachings, you would have to submit to loving all your neighbors, giving all who need food and shelter aid, move your brother into your home if he is in need, submit to laws and admit when you have wronged through action to redeem yourself in the eyes of your ancestors (Leviticus say all that; have you give grain to the local pastor to pay for your sins?).

    Can a person legitimately be called a Christian just because they claim membership in the Christian religion, regardless of whether they accept and adhere to the teachings of the Christian faith? If not, what word would one use to describe all people who claim membership of a Christian community? The “un-strong” or “un-American”?

    Does an American cease to be an American if they choose to live by secular law and not follow a religion? Isn’t it a fact that ALL Americans, including yourself, have to obey the laws of the United States regardless of their religion? So, what gives you the right to live “above” the teachings of Christ, the laws of America by advocating “only the strong survive” and the rest, get out of your way or you have the right to push, shove, bully, beat or kill?

    I bet you want that same brutality inflicted on everyone else who hasn’t been “disciplined, like you…I bet you believe you should be free to “discipline” homosexuals like Marcus Bachman, Ted Haggard, Tom Delay…what gives you the right to live as a “devout disciple of Christ” when you can’t walk the walk or talk the talk, but, would bully others to do so? I say you’re neither a devoted disciple nor American; I say you’re devoted to the religion of denial and delusion.

  14. That is exactly the attitude they were encouraging in the churches I attended (Assemblies of God) back when I was a dominionist (or proto-dominionist) between 1979 and 1982. They advocated persecuting and harming gays and those evil socialists (comprising anyone who was Democrat, liberal, or supported civil rights/equal rights) and since they were “philosophically opposed” to treating those people as human beings, they disliked the laws that protected others.

    I know I was really nasty to a lot of people while I was in that cult (in the few months I was in school and early in my time in the Assemblies – they convinced me to drop out and “get a real job” – night clerk in a convenience store), and I destroyed a lot of pro-gay rights signs (confession time). That sort of thing was approved and encouraged.

  15. PLEASE, stop denigrating Darwin!!! Call it what it is: SPENCERISM!

    Darwin strenuously resisted the use of evolution to justify “survival of the fittest” (also not his words: coined by Spencer) in the social arena and decried the use of evolutionary theory to justify stratification and elite abuse.

    Let’s get things right, please!

  16. OK jackass, let’s say you have a stroke (as I did a month ago – thankfully recovered completely). You’re no longer strong and healthy. In that case, why should people help YOU?

    You don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.

    You are so selfish and self-centered, you don’t even see that those rules and laws protect you as well. You think you’re so tough? I can guarantee you this: You will always find someone who is tougher and stronger. ALWAYS. (You might even find that those you despise, the sick, the weak, etc. are tougher than you, it’s just you have had a nice protected life and haven’t faced REAL trouble.)

    Grow up. Look around you and start learning. You remind me of some Pentecostals I’ve met… so self-centered that they think everyone else serves them, and proud of being ignorant and stupid.

  17. Imagine living in an area where people like Jerry are common, with at least one as a neighbor (and who likes to preach over the fence when you go outside).

    That’s the type the dominionists want – for cannon fodder. They’re actually rather common today. I believe that you’ll find areas full of people like that, especially in the “Bible Belt”.

  18. You’re correct, and I do agree, but I’m not sure this idiot knows who Herbert Spencer was. I went for the cheap shot, and you’re right – we need to revive Spencer and show he believed in “survival of the fittest” as a social, not biological, construct (well, he thought you were born to succeed or fail, but policy should enhance that.) I will take the time to make that point since you’re absolutely correct about this. Thanks for the good reminder.

  19. He is not a Christian but an “Old Testamentarian”, one who merely uses Jesus as a “get out of jail free” card for the supposed afterlife. You are right on – where is reference to the TEACHINGS that were to turn people away from mindless obedience of hateful laws and toward inclusion and love of all human beings without prejudice? He has a lot to learn about what he professes is his deepest core belief system.

  20. At any point has it occured to you that the greater danger to America’s position in the world is the atrocious state of education in many parts of the country? I mention this as a preface to pointing out that your spelling, punctuation, grammar and ability to frame a coherent argument is at about the level I would expect from a particularly slow-witted third grader.

    Please consider this. Is it possible that your inability to follow accepted standards of communication in the English language is the result of a deficiency in your cognitive abilities? If this is so, could this deficiency also prevent you from forming logical conclusions from given premises? If that is the case, is it more likely or less likely that you are simply wrong about everything?

  21. Jerry,

    Come on down here to Cheatham County – I will show you the GRAVESITE of the lovely young man who committed suicide~

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