Are Free Speech Zones Really Free?


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Conservatives and libertarians across the country are declaring war against “free speech zones” and other 1st Amendment restrictions. Free speech advocates are using lawsuits and legislation to push back against censorship, specifically on college campuses.

In Florida, the House Education Committee just recently passed House Bill 423 (HB 423), sponsored by Majority Leader, Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero), which includes a ban on free speech zones. This bill allows state universities to be sued if campus speakers are disrupted by students or the public. Additionally, the bill works to reshape college funding in a manner that rewards students and professors based on performance. Lone Conservative contributor, Gen Sanchez, has been an outspoken advocate for many free speech bills in Florida.

A day prior to the advancement of Florida’s free speech zone ban, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 339 in a vote of 33-19. This bill will go forth to the House side for a vote, and then move to the Governor’s desk for signing. Similar to Florida’s HB 423, this bill will penalize those who disrupt speakers on campus.

This recent success in the push back against campus free speech restrictions can be traced back to legislative actions in 2017. Last April, a bill banning free speech zones was passed unanimously and signed into law in Colorado. A month later, Tennessee passed a similar bill also banning free speech zones.

On the national level, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah recently announced in an op-ed for National Review that he would introduce the Free Right to Expression in Education Act (FREE), which would make it illegal for state universities to restrict “expressive activity” through policies such as free speech zones.

“When faced with opinions contrary to their own, some of the most esteemed institutions of higher learning have sought to dampen student expression.” Hatch writes. “College campuses should be a place where students can explore their beliefs, debate conflicting ideas, and find common ground.”

The war on free speech continues on college campuses, but conservatives are fighting back successfully thanks to organizations like Young Americans for Liberty, Young America’s Foundation, and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.


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About Patrick Hauf

Patrick is a freshman at Saint Bonaventure University where he is pursuing a double major in journalism and political science. He was a reporter, anchor, and producer for Teen Perspective 2 News on WMAR ABC-2 News in Baltimore. His favorite sport teams are the Ravens, Orioles, and Heat and his go to TV show is The Five.

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