A wide spot in my imagination.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Testimony in Support of Anti-Bullying Legislation

Yesterday, I testified at the State Capitol in support of anti-bulling legislation. Below is a copy of my testimony:

Testimony to the Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee

Rev. Timothy Tutt, Pastor, United Christian Church, Austin, Texas

March 1, 2011

In Support of H.B. 224

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for holding a hearing on this important piece of legislation.

I am the father of two elementary school children and the pastor of United Christian Church here in Austin. I support this bill.

Two weeks ago, I received a phone call at our church office from a man who needed someone to talk to. For the sake of his confidentiality, let’s call him Bobby. Bobby told me he was a gay man. He said he had known he was gay since he was very young. He called me because he had some theological questions. Bobby told me the church he attended had told him he was a no-good sinner, that God hated him, and he was going to burn in hell. (We can save the theology of all of that for later.) But in the course of talking with him about these issues, he also told me that when he was young he was sexually abused by a family member. And he told me that all of his growing up years, he was taunted, harassed, belittled, and bullied by other students at school.

You know, Mr. Chairman and committee members, from reading the papers, and just from common sense, that this kind of experience is all too common.

What struck me as so sad in my phone call with Bobby was that he did not feel safe anywhere. He didn’t feel safe at his house of worship, at his home, or at school.

This bill, HB 224, that Mr. Strama has put forward, helps address part of the problem.

My wife works in the Pflugerville Schools, so I am glad to see this bill provides common sense ways to help teachers to identify and prevent bullying.

I am the parent of two elementary school aged kids, so I’m glad to see that this bill addresses text messages, cell phones, and other 21st century high-tech forms of bullying.

And, I think the reporting requirements in this bill are very important. When I get calls like the one I got from Bobby two weeks ago, or when I talk to people in my church office, I hear that people who have been harassed or abused or bullied often feel all alone in the world. Having the statistics available would help victims know that they are not alone in their circumstances. And the reports would help us, as citizens of Texas, actually see the problem so that we can better address it together in our homes, our places of worship, and our schools.

As I said, my wife works in a public school, and we have two elementary school aged children. Providing a safe learning environment is important for education. Addressing bullying is important for human dignity.

We can’t go back and undo the damage done to Bobby, the man who called me a couple of weeks ago. Our church can work to provide a safe place for him now. And by passing this legislation we can do our part to help today’s school children.

Thank you.


  1. As expected, this is well-crafted. I am proud of you.
    As I read the words "phone" and "in my church office" the thought struck me: What if the conversation with "Bobby" had occurred in a more warming atmosphere? Would it not be more human and pastoral if you had been able to say..."in a confessional booth"..."at the local bar?" Just lamenting the distances that affect all of us.

  2. Thank you for testifying. Yes, it is far too common.