Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Tuesday that protects “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on college campuses throughout the state.
The new law defines “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” as “the exposure of students, faculty, and staff to, and the encouragement of their exploration of, a variety of ideological and political perspectives.”
Known as H.B. 233, the bill passed the state House by a vote of 77-42 and the state Senate by a vote of 23-15.
The bill states that “the State Board of Education may not shield students, faculty, or staff at Florida College System institutions from free speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” And according to the bill, the word shield means “to limit students,’ faculty members’ or staff members’ access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.”
In addition, the law also requires each university to conduct an annual assessment of their “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” and it requires student government associations to allow student government officers to appeal to a high-ranking university official any discipline, suspension or removal.
Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) 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 privately sharing Catholic beliefs.“Students don’t forfeit their right to free speech when they step on to 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. We thank Rep. Spencer Roach for sponsoring this vital legislation in response to the problems Jack faced, and we commend Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for ensuring that First Amendment rights are preserved for students like Jack.”
Above: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Melbourne, Florida, on March 22.
Photo: Sipa USA/Alamy Stock Photo