Congratulations to Gene Mills, Executive Director of the Louisiana Family Forum, for his courageous decision to publicly admit that he can easily control the Louisiana legislature.
Last week, the Louisiana legislature debated the merits of a relatively innocuous school bullying bill.
In short, the bill said (paraphrasing here): Kids, don’t bully people. Don’t bully other kids because they’re different. Don’t bully them because they’re physically or mentally challenged. Don’t bully them because they’re overweight. Don’t bully them because you think they may be gay. Bullying is bad. Be civilized and respectful. It’s a public classroom.
Austin Badon’s HB 112 was endorsed and supported by the Louisiana Association of Educators. After all, it’s common sense.
But don’t tell that to Gene Mills. Under his leadership, the so-called Louisiana “Family” Forum has had very little to do with promoting families and much more to do with fighting gay and lesbian Louisianans. At times, the LFF appears to be nothing more than an organization that implicitly endorses discrimination and bigotry.
In addition to the Louisiana Association of Educators, HB 112 was also supported by at least two Louisiana-based gay rights organizations– notably, the Forum for Equality. These organizations rallied hard for the legislation. They handed out petitions and solicited endorsements. More than likely, they believed the bill was innocuous enough to pass. There’s not a lobby for bigoted school bullies, right? From Gannett columnist Mike Hasten:
What should have been a debate over what we could do in House Bill 112 to protect our children became a homophobic witch hunt.
At the core of it was Gene Mills, the director of a conservative religious group called the Louisiana Family Forum. Mills regularly injects his opinion into state government, so much so that one senator asked last year in debate of a seemingly innocuous bill, “How does the Family Forum stand on this?”
The senator said that since he had not received information from Family Forum, the bill should be shelved until he heard from Mills. The Senate agreed. The next week, the bill sailed through, seemingly with Mills’ blessings.
Do any of you ever remember voting for Gene Mills for a statewide office?
Even Mills seems to know that the joke’s on us. Mills, who probably speaks about homosexuality more than the vast majority of gay and lesbian Americans, singled out the support of gay rights groups in order to paint HB 112 as a “homosexual bullying bill.” How Christlike. Quoting:
After the bill was defeated, Mills told a reporter that the reaction to his message “was the kind of thing that was amusing. All I did was drop a floor note.”
If all Mills has to do is drop a floor note. then please allow me:
Dear Honorable Representatives and Senators:
Gene Mills knows that he owns you.
Just wait until Gene Mills and the LFF tries to take down the Repeal of the Louisiana Science Act. Lots of Senators who know better will be running scared. Would love to see you expand on this subject.
I had emailed Thomas Carmody, my state rep, asking him to support HB 112. I truthfully related my experience in 8th grade in Baton Rouge. I was relentlessly harassed and accused of being gay, though I have never behaved or considered myself anything but heterosexual. HB 112 not only would have protected homosexuals– it would have protected heterosexuals thought to be homosexual or who associated with homosexuals.
Mind you, my ethics and my faith dictate that homosexual children are every bit as deserving of love and protection as others. I had hoped, however, that a realization that the bill would help even heterosexuals would resonate with even a conservative GOP’er.
Carmody did not respond to my email. He voted against HB 112.
It is tragic how Gene Mills and company can find in an attempt to protect all children a twisted and hateful message. In Gene Mills’ world, protecting Louisiana’s children equates with a radical, homosexual agenda. Even more tragic is that Mills can successfully promote and impose his warped views, completely antithetical to Christ’s message, in the name of Christianity.
Speech is protected. ANY abridgement of speech is suspicious on its face. Same with so-called “Hate” crime laws. It goes even broader in workplace restrictions on speech based on slippery notions of offensive, sexist, racist, or other harassing speech.
Having said that, the perceived need for this law, constitutional or not, arises out of our collective failure to raise children who are polite, respectful, decent human beings. The fact you have the power and the right to do something does not, in and of itself, mean you should do something. That works both for lawmakers and bullies.
We’re talking about school children in public schools. Kids can’t run around their schools shouting obscenities; they can’t curse out their teachers or their principal; they can’t even wear t-shirts that may be perceived as offensive. Here in Rapides Parish, a kid was sent home for wearing a jacket with a picture of President Obama on it.
I fail to see how, on earth, an innocuous law that ensures Louisiana kids are protected to enjoy an education without fear of being harassed or intimidated (simply because of who they are) could, in any way, represent an abridgment of free speech. In the real world, harassment is a crime. Your right to free speech does not empower you to harass, intimidate, and inflict emotional distress on others.
And again, we’re talking about school children.
To me, the actions of Gene Mills on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum demonstrate that he cares far more about “defeating” any and every piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates than about protecting vulnerable children from harassment and bullying.
But maybe it’s no surprise. Mills has built his career by bullying, criticizing, and admonishing gay and lesbian Louisianans. By rebranding the Safe Schools Act as the Homosexual Bullying Bill, Mills unwittingly reminded all of us what he values more.
Laws, even well-intentioned ones, are necessary evils. Once you have a law in place – we the people have turned over some of our sovereignty to the authorities. Power is always abused. Rights always seemed to be chipped away, and never seem to be expanding.
I was on the receiving end of bullying during my school days, so I am no friend of the schoolyard bully. However, who is going to define what bullying is? When I was a kid it wasn’t a serious problems. There was already a bastion against the bullies – Assistant Principals (or Deans of Students) and recess duty teachers armed with stout wooden paddles and/or large rulers. Since administrators’ and teachers’ authority to maintain discipline in a reasonable way has been stripped – now we have a bullying “crisis”. All a well-intentioned law like this will accomplish is a similar paralysis caused by the “zero-tolerance” nonsense.
When you make people responsible for things, you should give them the authority to get the job done. That is not the case any longer. Ironically, if school administrators had the authority to enforce discipline, silly laws like this wouldn’t be needed. Even more ironically, without that same authority, silly laws like this won’t be effective. It will only raise debates over what constitutes “bullying”.