A prominent Christian legal group is applauding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a bill into law that protects intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at universities and requires them to issue an annual report.
The new law places new requirements on universities, colleges and two bodies that govern them: the Board of Governors and the Board of Education. It prohibits the boards from shielding “students, faculty, or staff at state universities from free speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the text of the law says.
The law requires each university to conduct an annual assessment of their “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” and the two boards to publish the assessments each year. The new law defines intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity as “the exposure of students, faculty, and staff to” a “variety of ideological and political perspectives.”
DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill Tuesday. Known as H.B. 233, it passed the state House 77-42 and the state Senate 23-15.
The law also requires student government associations to allow student government officers to appeal any discipline, suspension or removal. The appeal would be to a high-ranking university official.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, said the law is necessary to protect students like Florida State University’s Jack Denton, who was removed from his role as Student Senate president for text conversations. His messages claimed that the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com supported causes that oppose Catholic teaching.
“Students don’t forfeit their right to free speech when they step onto a public university campus,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer. “... This new law provides students with recourse if they experience unconstitutional delays like Jack’s by allowing them to appeal directly to a high-ranking university official if they are punished or removed from student leadership.”
Langhofer thanked the governor and the bill’s sponsor for “ensuring that First Amendment rights are preserved for students like Jack.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Joe Raedle/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.