It all started with a school play
Last month, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era order that allows transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice in schools across the country. On Monday, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin signed a law that allows for students discriminate against LGBTQ students in school activities under the guise of freedom of speech. According to the governor, the bill ensures “the public school can be a place where religious and political ideas can be expressed without fear of suppression.”
SB 17, also known as the “Charlie Brown Law,” came after a Kentucky school cut a Bible verse from its production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The move was applauded by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky for “honoring its constitutional obligation to protecting students’ freedom of religion and belief” in schools. But community members were outraged by the omission. That prompted lawmakers to craft a bill that lets students exclude their LGBTQ classmates from school organizations, clubs, and extracurricular programs based on religious grounds.
SB 17 states:
“No recognized religious or political student organization is hindered or discriminated against in the ordering of its internal affairs, selection of leaders and members, defining of doctrines and principles, and resolving of organizational disputes in the furtherance of its mission, or in its determination that only persons committed to its mission should conduct such activities. The expression of a student’s religious or political viewpoints in classroom, homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments are free from discrimination or penalty based on the religious or political content of the submissions.”
LGBTQ advocates fear the new law will further promote the bullying, harassment, and ostracizing of Kentucky’s LGBTQ students. “No student should fear being excluded from a school club or participating in a school activity because they are LGBTQ,” Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, said in a statement. “While, of course, private groups should have the freedom to express religious viewpoints, they should not be able to unfairly discriminate with taxpayer funds.”