If you’ve ever wondered whether the “anti-bullying” campaign aimed at protecting gay youth is at least in part a cover to shut up those who have moral qualms about homosexuality, you can look to a column in the Huffington Post today for confirmation. Paul Rauschenbusch, great-grandson of Social Gospeler Walter Rauschenbusch, denounces a provision in a Michigan anti-bullying law designed to prevent bullying of those who dissent from sexual orthodoxy:

Michigan’s recent anti-bullying bill debate has moved one step forward and two steps back for actual protection against bullying in the state’s schools. The anti-bullying bill, is named “Matt’s Safe School Law” for Matt Epling of East Lansing, Michigan who committed suicide after being bullied. Like all anti-bullying efforts, the goal of the bill is to protect those who are vulnerable to attack and create a safer and more humane environment for all children in schools.

That is a laudable and worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, for Rauschenbusch, some kids are more worthy of protection than others:

Unfortunately, the state’s Senate Republicans added language to the bill to establish that schools could not prohibit “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”

Think homosexuality is wrong? Sorry, no protection for you. Teachers, administrators, and even the members of the local Gay-Straight Alliance should do pretty much anything they can to shut you down–and they sometimes do, as examples such as thisthis, and this illustrate. Let’s get serious: there are a small and shrinking numbers of school districts in this country where you cannot say, “homosexual behavior is perfectly legitimate, and it is wrong to say or imply otherwise,” while there is a growing number of districts where you cannot say, “I believe homosexuality is wrong.” Is it of the magnitude that the problem of genuine bullying of LGBT students is? I’m sure it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong, and should be stopped, if necessary legislatively.

Rauschenbusch goes on to say:

What kind of ‘sincerely held belief’ would lead someone to bully? The clause added by the Republican Senators is none-too-subtly coded language specifically aimed at protecting anti-LGBT intimidation and hostility; cloaked in the rhetoric of freedom of religion.

The idea that religious beliefs require special provision within a law meant to protect the most vulnerable should be an affront to all religious people. It is an affront to me as a Baptist minister. The bill intimates that we people of faith require special loopholes for our irresistible urges to bully people based on our very, very sincerely held beliefs.

And this is why the protection is necessary. For people such as Rauschenbusch, any opposition to homosexual behavior, no matter how principled, is per se either bullying or an incitement to bullying. Saying in a private conversation overheard by a teacher, as 14-year-old Dakota Ary did, that “I think being a homosexual is wrong,” is the equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Even uttering such words will inevitably result in some Christian thug acting on his “irresistible urges” to slug gays, after which he’ll hide behind this law and claim he was only acting on the basis of his “very, very sincerely held beliefs” (I guess the “very, very” is another way for Rauschenbusch to say he can’t believe anyone in this day and age could possibly be so barbaric as to actually believe that Bible thingy–it must be homophobia instead).

There are anti-gay bullies out there, and they should be stopped from hurting others. Political bullies such as Paul Rauschenbusch, on the other hand, should be stopped from beating up on the First Amendment.