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LANSING – The Michigan Senate has made national news by passing an anti-bullying bill last week that includes a “moral exception,” which allows bulling if it represents “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”
The front page of the Nov. 7 Washington Post blared a headline, citing Michigan as the only state that has tried to insert language into legislation that would allow bullies to prey on students and to watch someone be bullied who they think might deserve it without trying to stop it.
“After long debates and tortuous negotiations, the state of Michigan passed anti-bullying legislation, which on the face of it, should be a good thing. Unfortunately, Michigan has managed to pass a law which, despite bearing a name designed to honor the memory of a victim of bullying, may actually provide legal cover to the worst of the bullies,” wrote religion columnist Brad Hirschfield Nov. 8.
The bill, dubbed Matt’s Safe Law, is named after Matthew Epling who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied on the last day of his eighth grade classes.
Tampa’s WTSP Channel 10 News led their evening broadcast, stating that Michigan approved a law that would “encourage hatred.” Tampa school psychologist Chuck Jaksek told the reporter, “this is dangerous, and is opening the floodgates” for bullying.
Numerous news and religion websites and blogs posted stories that raised concerns about the law, including the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal’s site, Jezebel.com and others. On a Google search, the uproar over Matt’s Safe Law is the number one search result for Michigan after the official State of Michigan website.
Calls to Gov. Snyder’s office for comment on the public relations repercussions for the state were not returned by press time.