A federal judge temporarily blocked a Florida law designed to ban state colleges and universities from teaching students certain ideologies related to race or gender.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida denounced the “Individual Freedom Act”—originally pitched as the “Stop WOKE” Act for censoring what professors are allowed to teach, and issued a preliminary injunction against its enforcement while the lawsuit continues.
“The law officially prohibits professors from expressing unfavorable views in university classrooms while allowing the free expression of opposing views,” Walker wrote in a Thursday order. “Defendants argue that professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ under this law as long as they express only those views that the state approves. This is decidedly dystopian.”
Fox News reached out to the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for comment on the order, but they did not immediately respond.
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The law prohibits the imposition of “a condition of employment, membership, certification, licensing, qualification, or passing of an examination” on anything that promotes any of a list of eight specified principles, including the idea that members of one race, color, sex, whether national origins are morally superior to all others; are inherently racist because of their race, color, gender or national origin; that one’s status as privileged or oppressor is dictated by such characteristics, and that “virtues such as merit, excellence, hard work, honesty, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist”[.]”
Professors and students have sued Florida, arguing that the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by restricting the expression of certain views. The Florida government argued that because public school professors represent the government, they do not enjoy First Amendment protection in this case.
“No one should be instructed to feel that they are not equal or shamed because of their race,” DeSantis said in a statement accompanying the bill’s signing in April. “In Florida, we will not let the far-left vigilante agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”
Judge Walker said that “both sides go too far in mixing up legal concepts,” but ultimately sided with prosecutors, stating that Florida’s logic would give the state unlimited “power to expand its limitation of positions to any idea he chooses”.
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“Our professors are critical to a healthy democracy,70 and the decision of the State of Florida to choose which views are worthy of enlightenment and which should be kept in the shadows affects all of us,” Walker wrote, concluding that “the first amendment does not allow the state of Florida to silence its college professors, impose its own orthodoxy of views, and cast us all in the dark.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression celebrated the decision.
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“Today’s ruling is an important step in protecting the First Amendment right of teachers in the classroom — not legislators, administrators and angry members of the public out there — to lead the discussion,” they tweeted.