Tennessee’s legislature by a vote of 32-0 in the Senate and 90-2 in the House has sent to the Governor a bill that “actually helps organize anti-gay bullying” in our public schools. To be honest, I can hardly believe it.
The quoted description of the bill comes from the first paragraph of a story about the bill published on the New Civil Rights Movement website. And what I can’t believe is how the article characterized the bill.
What the Bill Says
The bill is entitled “The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act.” It does exactly what its name implies. It says that public schools shall do the following:
- treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint “in the same manner” as it “treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint” and “may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint . . . on an otherwise permissible subject”
- provide a “method, based on neutral criteria, for the selection of student speakers at school events and graduation ceremonies,” but only if the school first “determines that it is appropriate to allow a student speaker at a school event”
- allow students to “express their written beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the student’s submissions”
- allow the organization of “religious student groups . . . or religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent” that other students are permitted to organize, give them “the same access to school facilities . . . as is given to other” groups, and let them “advertise or announce meetings” in the same manner as other groups
In other words, our public schools must treat students with religious beliefs the same way they treat students without religious beliefs. Doesn’t sound so ominous to me.
What Opponents Say It Says
But, taking quotes from the same article, here is what advocates for the homosexual political and educational agenda see lurking in such a straightforward application of the equal treatment required by the First Amendment:
“A student could also stand in class and say their religion says that gay people are sinners and going to hell, and that speech would be legally protected . . . .”
“But the more sinister part of the bill forces all students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of the popular kids.”
Do you now see why this agenda is called “radical?” It’s called that not for pejorative reasons, but because it would destroy the very concept behind the First Amendment. If the rights secured by the First Amendment only protect speech that offends no one or with which everyone agrees, then it is useless. Speech we all like and that could never offend does not need to be protected.
When any group of people wants to make sure another group of people can’t say things they don’t like or that they disagree with, then it is hard not to conclude that they are unsure of themselves and their beliefs. Beliefs that cannot stand up to a challenge are not worth clinging to.
The Silver Lining
In that regard, for Christians there is a silver lining to all this, because it opens the door for us to talk about God’s design for human sexuality and how, when faithfully practiced, it leads to human flourishing. It also gives us opportunity to talk about the First Amendment and why religious liberty was considered the “first liberty.”
I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, “a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 9:16 NKJV).
Great work is work accomplished when the need is great. And the need is greatest when the opposition is the strongest. The only question is whether those of us who hold to the historical, orthodox belief regarding what the Bible says about human sexuality are secure enough in what we believe to seize the opportunity that is before us. Let’s hope we love God and our neighbor enough to do so.