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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Dammit, Florida, stop making me defend this crap (Update)

If government would accept that horrible ideas and those who speak them are protected, life for free-speech maximalists would be easy. Horrible speakers can engage in horrible speech and I can ignore or talk back, without having to defend them. Unfortunately, governments too often either forget or figure it is easier to score political points and lose in court. This puts free-speech advocates in the position of having to  remind government of its constitutional obligations, thereby lending public voice to a defense of bad speech and bad speakers.

Case in point in Florida: State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues issued a statement two weeks ago labeling as criminal activities and violations of Florida laws against antisemitic activities campus demonstrations calling for Israel to be wiped off the map and justifying the October 7 attacks and killing Jews. Rodrigues yesterday called on state universities to deactivate two campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, arguing that SJP provides material support to Hamas because it considers itself "part of" the movement against Israel. Both are absurd arguments for restrictions on constitutionally protected speech and efforts that would, if pursued, cost the state an injunction and attorney's fees in court. Plus, it forces me to side with people who want to see me and my family dead.

Update: Although FIU does not have a registered SJP chapter, the South Florida chapter held a rally at FIU Wednesday, alongside a competing rally. Meanwhile, the state promises to "crack down on campus demonstrations that delve beyond protected first amendment speech and into harmful support for terrorist groups," meaningless verbiage since most "harmful support for terrorist groups" is, in fact, protected First Amendment speech. Many lawsuits to follow.

Further Update: FIRE wrote to the Presidents of UF, FSU, FIU, USF, and FAU.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 24, 2023 at 08:22 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


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