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Illinois Senate Rejects Anti-Bullying Measure Amid Religious Objections

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Two students fight when one is accused of bullying the other. (Credit: CBS)

Two students fight when one is accused of bullying the other. (Credit: CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Lawmakers failed to pass an enhanced anti-bullying law due to some members’ religious concerns.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) wants the bill to allow students to opt out of anti-bullying programs if the teachings conflict with their religious beliefs, specifically regarding homosexuality.

“This is wrong because there are anti-bullying programs that have an agenda to protect only one class of individuals,” he says.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

Bill proponents say such religious protections already exist in federal law.

The bill would have strengthened anti-bullying programs by forcing districts to outline what would happen to students if they’re caught bullying, and proponents contend it’s designed to encompass all bullying – not just anti-gay bullying.

Opponents such as the Illinois Family Institute don’t buy it – pointing to the House’s sponsor, openly gay State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), plus backing from the gay rights group Equality Illinois.

The measure failed by one vote, with 29 senators in favor, 12 senators voting no and 12 voting present. The measure needed 30 “aye” votes to pass. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) put the bill on postponed consideration, which means it could still come up for debate before the legislature adjourns at the end of the month.

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