Anti-Bullying Proponents Want To Ban Unpopular “Viewpoints Or Beliefs”

I’ve long felt that one recent political fad, the anti-bullying movement, was both dangerous and silly.

Silly because kids have been bullying other kids for about as long as there has been kids. I’m not condoning it, but to think that we can change it with a law is, well, pretty silly. But this effort is also dangerous.

“Whose subjective definition of what does and does not constitute “bullying” do we use?” I asked in 2010, in advance of North Dakota’s legislature taking up anti-bullying laws (they ultimately passed). It seems they’re having that very debate in Tennessee, and there anti-bullying activists want the ban on bullying to include unpopular “viewpoints or beliefs.”

An example of the conversation about bullying is found in a Feb. 24 News Sentinel story concerning a panel discussion about legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. The story was headlined “Panel discusses fears of proposed ‘license to bully’ bill.”

Notwithstanding the headline, that’s not the name of the bill. That’s what it’s called by its opponents. The body of the story identifies it as the “so-called ‘license to bully’ bill.”

Here is the section of the legislation that seems to be causing concern among those who feel it is a license to bully: “Creating a hostile educational environment shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular.”

Keep in mind that in our nation’s schools and workplaces, creating a hostile environment is something administrators and employers are already empowered to stop. Real bullying is already against the rules. What the anti-bullying activists are after now isn’t protecting children. It’s about controlling speech.

For instance, what if a Christian student says that homosexuality is immoral? That is a belief or viewpoint that is unpopular with many people, but is it really bullying? The anti-bullying people want it to be, because they disagree with it.

As someone who makes a living from expressing unpopular, controversial beliefs and viewpoints I find this trend very disturbing. What the anti-bullying activists are claiming is a right not to be offended or upset by things other people say. But how can free speech exist in an environment like that? How can education happen unless students are challenged with thoughts different from their own?

If we all have a right not to be offended, or “bullied” to use another term, then how do any of us have a right to free speech?

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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