Declaring it a “positively dystopian” attack on free speech, a district court judge on Thursday banned state university professors from expressing certain opinions in their classes on topics related to racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. Prohibited enforcement of the provisions of Florida law.
The decision means that the leadership of Florida’s state university system cannot punish professors or instructors for violating a prohibition on the expression of eight viewpoints enacted by GOP Gov.
Judge Mark Walter, appointed by President Barack Obama, said in a blistering opinion that began with a quote from George Orwell’s classic anti-authoritarian novel “1984,” the law violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech of both professors and students and the Fourteenth Amendment. Amendment as being unconstitutionally vague.
“In this case, the state of Florida lays the foundation stone of its own ministry of truth under the guise of the Personal Freedom Act, declaring which viewpoints will be conservative and which will be verbatim in its university classrooms,” Walker wrote.
,[T]That First Amendment does not allow the state of Florida to muzzle its university professors, enforce its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and leave us all in the dark,” Walker concluded.
The case centered on the law’s prohibition on the expression of eight different viewpoints related to race, gender, sex and sexual orientation by state university professors. The legislation, originally introduced by DeSantis as the Stop Woke Act, was enacted as part of the governor’s culture war political agenda to bend state universities, government bureaucracies, and state corporations to the will of Republican politicians. was demanding.
The enactment of policies such as the Individual Freedom Act stemmed from a position supported by the conservative faction known as the National Conservatives, which DeSantis aligned himself with on the national political platform, that conservatives should first crush liberal control of cultural resources such as schools. should be given priority. , universities and the entertainment industry, among other things.
The one thing standing in their way, as evidenced by Thursday’s ruling against the Personal Freedom Act, is the First Amendment right to free speech.
In the combined cases of Purnell et. al. V. Florida Board of Governors of the State University System et. al. and Adriana Novoa et. al. V. Manny Diaz, Jr. et. al., a group of state university professors and students filed a lawsuit against the board governing the state university system and State Education Commissioner Diaz. The professors argued that they would face punishment of self-censorship or even dismissal if they were required to comply with the law’s restrictions on hate speech. Two state university students argued that these viewpoint prohibitions violated their First Amendment right to hear their professor’s speech.
Noting that the court’s precedents allow the state to set educational curriculum, Walker explained that there is no precedent for the state of Florida’s claim that the state “has the right to prevent professors from expressing their views”. with which he disagrees.”
Walker wrote in a footnote, “Defendants essentially ask this court to engage in ‘judicial activism,’ because to accept defendants’ argument this court would need binding precedent with defendant’s policy preference.” “
That policy preference would be that “the First Amendment does not protect professors’ in-class speech.”
Ruling in favor of the professors, except for one and two of the students, Walker said the state had violated their First Amendment rights by imposing an unconstitutional approach and content-based restrictions on their speech.
By simply declaring eight viewpoints prohibited by law to be “prejudicial”, the state cannot “operate an end-around the First Amendment in order to impose its own conservatism on … preferred viewpoints.”
Walker wrote, “The IFA is antithetical to academic freedom and has led to a crackdown on Florida’s state universities.” “Neither the State of Florida’s authority to regulate the public school curriculum, nor its interest in preventing race or sex discrimination can support its weight. Nor does the First Amendment tolerate it.
In an August ruling, Walker blocked enforcement of the law’s provisions prohibiting private companies from hosting certain anti-discrimination trainings.
Enforcement of the higher education provisions of the law has now been temporarily suspended pending further appeal. The state is expected to appeal the district court’s decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.