A Nebraska state senator has proposed banning children from attending vacation Bible study or other “religious indoctrination” camps in response to an anti-drag bill gaining traction in the conservative state legislature.
State Sen. Megan Hunt (Omaha), the first out LGBTQ person elected to the Nebraska Legislature, introduced the proposal as an amendment to a bill seeking to make it illegal for minors to attend a drag show.
Under the bill, a drag show is defined as any performance in which the person “exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers” and in which the performer “sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” Bills using nearly identical language — as if they were all the brainchild of a single organization — have been introduced in several other states.
State Sen. Dave Murman (Glenvil), the bill’s sponsor, argues that the measure is necessary to protect children from being exposed to “sexual content” in drag shows and Drag Queen Story Hours.
While Murman says he’s never attended a drag show, he’s seen videos of drag performances on social media — which are often taken out of context and circulated widely by right-wing pundits to stir up outrage over expressions of gender-nonconformity.
“I think the vast majority of Nebraskans would agree that sexualized dancing and enhanced genitals is not appropriate for children to view,” he told Nebraska Public Media.
But the bill’s definition of drag is so broad that critics say it would technically ban minors from performances of Shakespearean plays where characters disguise themselves as another gender, such as Twelfth Night, As You Like It, or The Merchant of Venice, as well as productions of musicals like Hairspray.
As such, Hunt has decided to highlight the hypocrisy of the proposed law, even if it ultimately gets passed by the conservative Legislature, which is dominated by “nonpartisan” lawmakers who are actually registered Republicans.
In fact, according to OnlySky, a news outlet focused on religious issues from a secular perspective, Hunt knows her amendment won’t pass, but hopes it highlights conservatives’ selective outrage and their unwillingness to call out actual threats to children’s development and well-being.
Hunt has filed a motion to kill Murman’s bill to prevent it from becoming law. She has also filed an amendment to rewrite the bill’s provisions to bar children from being attending religious-centric camps, such as Bible camps.
“There is a well-documented history of indoctrination and sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders and clergy people upon children,” the amendment states, using language that conservatives frequently utilize when arguing against displays of LGBTQ identity or gender-nonconformity, including drag.
“Abusers within churches and other religious institutions often use events like church or youth-group-sponsored camps and retreats to earn children’s trust and gain unsupervised access to such children in order to commit such abuse,” the amendment continues.
That same amendment also prohibits children from attending a religious camp “if alcoholic liquor is being served at such a location, regardless if such alcoholic liquor is being served as part of a religious ceremony.”
Violators of the amended law would be guilty of a misdemeanor, and be subject to a fine of $10,000, as would any group that hosts such camps.
Hunt has also introduced a handful of other amendments seeing to penalize adults who allow minors to view R-rated movies, criminalize parents who allow their children to watch TV shows that depict sexual themes or violence, and to replace the term “drag show” with “beauty pageant.”
Hunt even introduced an amendment saying that “no manufacturer shall distribute chocolate-coated candy for consumption” by minors without “explicitly identifying the candy’s gender assigned at birth” — a reference to anti-“wokeness” rants by Fox News personalities over M&M’s “spokescandies” changing the appearance of female-designated candies by ditching the Green M&M character’s go-go boots for sensible shoes. Under the amendment, any person who provides a minor under the age of 19 with chocolate-coated candy that does not explicitly identify a candy’s birth gender would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fines.
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