The right to discriminate against LGBT students: A “religious freedom” bill in Kentucky is one signature away from becoming law

By Nico Lang

Kentucky schools may soon have a license to discriminate against LGBT students.

After the House passed it by a vote of 81 to 8 on Monday, a bill is sitting on Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk that could allow student-run organizations in colleges and K-12 schools to deny membership to classmates based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Known as Senate Bill 17, the stated purpose of the legislation to prevent people of faith from having their political or religious opinions silenced in schools. Comparing it to the “religious liberty” bills introduced in states like Indiana and Georgia, advocates argue that it has the potential to promote anti-LGBT bigotry in the name of faith.

SB 17, which had already passed the Kentucky Senate last month, was introduced in response to an incident when Johnson County Schools cut a Bible verse from a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” During a pivotal scene Linus tells Charlie Brown, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Administrators at W.R. Castle Elementary School in Wittensville, Kentucky, were worried that overt references to Scripture could open the district up to a lawsuit.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Found this article a little unclear, and not sure I completely agree. For example

    While the bill is overtly designed to allow the use of the Bible in classrooms as an educational text — such as in literature or history courses — SB 17 also states that “no recognized religious or political student organization can be hindered or discriminated against but in the selection of leaders and members.” That language could effectively negate “all-comers” policies on Kentucky’s college campuses and in schools. Such guidelines state that any student who wishes to take part in an extracurricular activity or club should be permitted to do so.

    I’m not sure its such a good thing to have no requirements for membership of groups. Let’s say you set up a support group for female rape survivors. Is it unreasonable to suggest that perhaps they be allowed to discriminate who attends? I say this acknowledging the ridiculousness of whole universities or university lectures being considered safe spaces but I can see a point in allowing groups under reasonable supervision to be able to exclude certain groups. Not sure how I feel about this, be interested to hear opposing views.

  2. Yeah,
    but here’s the thing. Freedom has a price tag and that price tag is vulnerability. the freedom to have any club at all is accompanied by the freedom of anyone to join any club they’d like. So, yes, if you want the freedom to have a survivors of rape group, then you have to acknowledge that you’ve opened yourself to people joining who you may (at least at first) question their motive. This is the price of having your club be in a PUBLIC school.

    Now, have your club on private time and property and all that changes. We had vehement opposition to a club forming at my high school. this opposition was from ONE bigoted power holder. the club is called the gay/straight alliance. (Yes, IS called. the kids went to work and got their club approved). Now, if a “dude/bro” football jock wants to join, they HAVE to be allowed. If, they do something to be ejected, they can be ejected. But is the public setting ALL are equal. No one, NO ONE, gets extra rights.

    Eyebrows may raise and questions may arise, but you cannot bar people from your group. If you do that, then “they” can BAR YOUR GROUP…. So, have the group and allow open membership or run the risk of your group itself being banned. Again, this is the public paradigm (IMO).

  3. Thanks crookedshoes,

    I see your point. It comes up again in the gay marriage issue. I of course fully support gay marriage but also support Churches being allowed to choose if they wish to marry them. I try to explain this to my Father in law who is an Anglican (but evangelical) priest who feels quite threatened by the whole thing. However, like your stance in relation to public school stance in your comments I think it would help if they were not taking taxes for an institution that seeks to discriminate in whom and how they provide services. Of course any non-proselytizing charitable work should be tax free as it is for me if I give to charity but the rest should be on their dime.

  4. This is an overreaction to a problem which is itself an overreaction, and every time the pendulum swing is larger.

    The stated issue was that a line from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was cut basically because it was too Christmassy.

    So in order to not hurt one hypothetical group’s feelings (being exposed to a bible verse in, of all things, a Christmas play), a line was cut from a play, which then hurt another group’s feelings because, well, it ruined the artistic integrity of a Peanuts sketch.
    If the legislation gets through, it enables others to hurt the feelings of yet another group by excluding them from activities. Currently they can’t be excluded but they are presumably not welcome at the moment if they’re at risk of exclusion as soon as it’s legal to do so, so their feelings are probably hurting already.

    Different peoples in decadent societies (i.e. those still superficially at their peak, but rotten within and about to collapse) have had different obsessions which seem very strange to us, whether it be the Ottomans or Easter Islanders or whoever. Nero fiddling while Rome burns is a useful metaphor (even if on this particular issue he is badly misrepresented).

    Centuries from now, historians will cite this incident and others like it as proof of the decadence of the US and the West in general. People are starving, the world is overpopulated, slavery is back (if it ever went away), there’s global warming and most leaders are silent on the topic if not outright denying it’s happening, the sixth great extinction is in full swing, fascism/racism seems to be on the ascendancy again, economic inequality certainly is, and there’s a loose cannon and quite possibly insane person in the most powerful job in the world, …, meanwhile people are obsessing over the lines in a school production of a play based on a newspaper cartoon about a talking dog and some children, and which bathroom is the appropriate one to use in edge cases. People’s feelings have been hurt and we MUST do something about it.

  5. There are thousands of commandments in the bible. Yet the only one Christians concern themselves with is killing gay people. Yet oddly, most of them are willing to refrain from murder; they just want to indulge in non-lethal acts of spite, such as denying cake. Why? To avoid hypocrisy. This is about the only sin they do not indulge in personally daily.

    “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
    ~ Ezekiel 16:49

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