Really! Former Washington Monthly editor Amy Sullivan notes how Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature agreed to allow anti-bullying legislation only if it contained an exemption for “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”. (h/t Cohn) It’s obvious where this is coming from: Republicans wanted to empower evangelical bullies to harass gay and lesbian children on campus. It’s an ugly — and in today’s GOP, typical — bit of conservative ideology.

But let’s think about this a little more. If the test is “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” then why couldn’t Christian anti-Semites harass Jewish kids for being Christ-killers or for putting Christian blood in matzah? After all, if the test is whether the bullying comes from a sincere religious conviction, then surely Christian religious anti-Semitism would qualify. And this anti-Semitism made it perfectly plausible, for those who sincerely believed in it, to think that Jews actually did use the blood of Christian children. We can even go farther: let’s make sure to protect racists who believe that African-Americans bear the mark of Cain. It’s a sincerely held religious belief, after all. (And no: there’s no First Amendment issue. These laws affect action, not speech, and in any event, relevant Supreme Court precedent allows for greater restrictions on K-12 public school campuses).

The Republican Party appears to have adopted the position that it’s okay to be a bigot if you can say that God told you to do it. It’s bad enough that so much of history’s ugliness comes from religious bigotry; it’s even worse that one of the nation’s main political parties thinks that that’s just a great idea.

What’s that you say? That that’s an unfair accusation against the entire GOP? Fair enough. How about this: at the next 3,457 Republican presidential debates, why don’t the questioners ask each candidate whether he or she supports the Michigan Republican position. Why don’t they answer it — again and again? I’d be particularly interested to see Bishop Romney’s position on the issue. Make it very clear, Mitt. Don’t turn down the chance to restore the honor of your party.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.