Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy released the following statement today in response the Michigan State Legislature’s inclusion of a religious exemption in “Matt’s Safe School Law,” a bill that should have been focused on protecting young people:
I can’t begin to express the utter disappointment I felt when hearing that the Michigan legislature has managed to turn a bill intended to protect young people from bullying into a law that gives legal cover to those perpetrating the harassment under the guise of religion. There are many pieces of legislation where a religious exemption is in order, but let me be very clear, this is not one of them. As someone who has been a member of clergy and a student of religion for most of my life, I can tell you that bullying is not an authentic part of any religion or faith that I am aware of. It is one thing to protect someone’s right to follow their religious values, or even to use hateful speech, it is something quite different to allow them to use those values as justification for harassment or bullying. What the state legislature is Michigan has done is an offense against religion.
It is all the more crucial, in light of so-called “anti-bullying” laws like this, that the Safe Schools Improvement Act be passed by Congress. Every school should implement anti-bullying policies that protect students from bullying and harassment because of their religion, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity—stopping bullying is the moral thing to do. The Michigan bill, “Matt’s Safe School Law” not only dishonors the memory of Matt Epling for whom it is named, but of every child who has died because of the torment they have faced in schools.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.