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ACLU Condemns House Passage of Dangerous Bill That Would Chill Free Speech

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union strongly condemns the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which threatens to censor political speech critical of Israel on college campuses under the guise of addressing antisemitism.

“The House’s approval of this misguided and harmful bill is a direct attack on the First Amendment,” said Christopher Anders, director of ACLU’s Democracy and Technology Policy Division. “Addressing rising antisemitism is critically important, but sacrificing American’s free speech rights is not the way to solve that problem. This bill would throw the full weight of the federal government behind an effort to stifle criticism of Israel and risks politicizing the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes precisely when their robust protections are most needed. The Senate must block this bill that undermines First Amendment protections before it’s too late.”

The bill directs the Department of Education to consider an overbroad definition of antisemitism that encompasses protected political speech when investigating allegations of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The ACLU has warned this could pressure colleges and universities to restrict student and faculty speech critical of the Israeli government and its military operations out of fear of the college losing federal funding.

As a recent ACLU letter to Congress made clear, federal law already prohibits antisemitic discrimination and harassment by federally funded entities, and the Antisemitism Awareness Act is not needed to protect Jewish students from discrimination. Additionally, as the Supreme Court ruled more than 50 years ago in the landmark decision of Healy v. James, “This Court leave[s] no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large. Quite to the contrary, ‘[t]he vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.’”

Originally published at https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-condemns-house-passage-of-dangerous-bill-that-would-chill-free-speech

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