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VOL. 35 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 30, 2011




Christian activist Fowler makes stand on bullying

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Conservative activist David Fowler of Signal Mountain favors legislative efforts to discourage student bullying but his group disagrees with providing special consideration for gay students.

Fowler, a former Republican state senator, is president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. The group's December newsletter says it wants "to make sure (the legislation) protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality."

Fowler told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that "the purpose is to stop bullying, not create special classes of people who are more important than others" (http://bit.ly/AtE2TD ).

Leaders of the gay rights advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project contend the legislation would give students a "license to bully" by allowing them to hide their irrational biases behind an extreme religious belief.

The S enate sponsor of changes to the bullying law, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbville, is "reviewing the legislation" and will likely "narrow" the current bill, a Tracy aide said Tuesday.

The bill backed by Fowler says anti-bullying programs and measures can't use materials or training that "explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda (and) make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying."

In a posting on the Tennessee Equality Project's website, the group's president, Jonathan Cole, said things were difficult for gay students last year. He referred to the suicide of Jacob Rogers, a student who experienced years of anti-gay bullying at Cheatham County Central High School in Ashland City.

Cole said the legislation will only increase risks to students.

Fowler said gays are "not the only people who get insulted. The thing we need to concentrate on is not whether the chara cteristics of the victim justify being protected but on the conduct of the person engaging in the bullying while respecting constitutional rights."

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