Conservative Bullies: 7 Ways the Christian Right Picks on People
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The anti-bullying campaign was supposed to be one of those causes that everyone, regardless of ideology or political party, was able to get behind. As Emily Bazelon discovered in her seminal book on bullying in schools, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, even in schools where it seems fairly obvious that authorities were being negligent toward victims of bullying, the schools insisted that they were opposed to bullying. No one is for bullying, right?
Well, that’s what we’d like to believe. But it seems that, as with many things, bullying is becoming a partisan issue. Anti-bullying efforts seem liberal in tone and emphasis, which means that they will inevitably attract negative attention from the knee-jerk “anything to piss off the liberals” crowd. But let’s be honest: Part of the reason conservatives frequently support bullying—or at least resist efforts to end it—is because bullying works. Bullies are good at exerting exactly the kind of social control that the right, especially the Christian right, wants to exert. So here’s a list of incidences where conservatives just straight-up supported bullying in the face of efforts to curb it.
1) Louisiana teacher encourages students to bully Buddhist student. The ACLU is suing the Sabine Parish School Board because of one teacher’s inexplicable alleged campaign to harass and abuse one of her students for his Buddhist beliefs. It isn’t just that the teacher thought a public school classroom was an ideal place to promote her interpretation of Christianity, though that would be reason enough to sue. The teacher reportedly agreed with a classmate who called the Buddhist student “stupid” for not believing in God and encouraged the students to laugh at him. She also reportedly called Buddhism stupid, and gave students tests where the “right” answer was to affirm Christian dogma.
When Scott Lane, the student’s stepfather, went to the superintendent to complain, she defended the teacher by saying that this is the “Bible Belt." Apparently, to the administration being in the Bible Belt means not only is the First Amendment suspended, but singling kids out and taunting them because they’re different is acceptable behavior.
2) Routinely denouncing attempts to prevent anti-gay bullying in schools. If anyone hoped that Christian conservatives who disapprove of gay rights could find it in their hearts to, at bare minimum, allow LGBT-identified kids to get an education without being harangued under the guise of religion, sorry to dash your hopes. Christian right organization Focus on the Family is happy to help fight back against bullies, unless, of course, the target is gay. Then all of a sudden, Focus on the Family sees the bully as the victim, and attempts to stop him from gay-bashing are nothing but an attempt to “censor or marginalize students and parents with differing viewpoints.”
While it would be nice if blatant bigotry was marginalized more in this way, that’s not at all what’s going on. Kids are still allowed to believe all sorts of vile stuff about their classmates. What anti-bullying measures do is offer LGBT kids some protection from having homophobes harass them. Despite this, conservative media routinely denies that there’s any difference between a student expressing a general opinion and specifically targeting individual students for abuse.
3) Demanding that schools make a humiliating spectacle out of transgender kids. One simple way to reduce bullying of transgender kids in school is to let them live as the gender they identify with and not make a big fuss out of it that draws the attention of bullies. When California passed a law giving transgender students exactly this right, Christian conservatives went nuts.