Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kafkaesque Bullying

By now I am sure almost everyone has heard about the awful treatment received by Jessica Ahlquist in Rhode Island (of all places!) when she agreed to act as the plaintiff in a lawsuit to have a clearly Christian prayer removed from the wall of her public high school.  She has been threatened with all sorts of horrible things.  Not just the usual hellfire and brimstone.  There have been actual threats of rape and other forms of violence.  You have to read it for yourself both because it's hard to believe and because I can hardly stand to think about it, much less repeat it.  Almost needless to say, there has been name calling that would peel the paint off a wall at 30 paces.

Atheist commentators have had a lot to say about it, of course.  Jon Willis' comments are wonderful.  The Friendly Atheist has even set up a scholarship fund for her, and I encourage everyone to contribute.

Some have pointed out how these threats and insults prove the need for anti-bullying laws to protect gays and non-believers from religious bullies.  (Or, more generally, unpopular minorities from being bullied or mobbed by the majority.) 

Tennessee is considering a law that would do just the opposite (no surprise).  It would allow religious based discrimination and bullying as a form of "religious expression".

Opponents of this proposed law frequently cite the case of a young man who had been in a high school near Nashville.  He committed suicide recently as a result of being bullied because he was gay.  His case is just one of many that have followed a similar pattern throughout history, but because it is recent and occurred in the state of Tennessee near its capital city it seems ideal as evidence for the need to stop such religious based bullying.

Supporters of the law that would protect religious based bullying have argued that his suicide was not the result of bullying but was the result of the young man's drug and alcohol problems, which, of course, are blamed on his rejection of god.

There is little doubt in my mind, however, that any alcohol or drug problems this young man had were probably the result of trying to cope with continual bullying.  For the people who bullied him to then blame him for his reactions to the way they treated him is so typical of the way these people think.  As I pointed out before, they will do or say anything and everything to make it appear that their victim is the one with the problem--that he is the one to blame.

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