Freedom of Speech

Why the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Would Chill Constitutionally Protected Speech

The bill, unanimously approved by the Senate last week, intensifies the conflict between antidiscrimination law and freedom of speech.

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The Orange County Register / ZUMA Press / Newscom

Last week the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, a.k.a. S. 10, was introduced in the Senate, read three times, and approved by unanimous consent without debate or amendment—all on one day. That sort of bipartisan consensus, which suggests a bill is so obviously unobjectionable that no discussion is necessary, usually means trouble, and this case is no exception. In the name of protecting Jewish students from discrimination, S. 10, if approved by the House, will encourage universities to suppress dissenting political opinions and have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech.

S. 10, introduced by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), codifies a controversial State Department definition of anti-Semitism that includes one-sided criticism of Israel and opposition to Zionism. Last year the University of California declined to adopt that definition based on concerns that it would violate the First Amendment by deterring pro-Palestinian activism. S. 10 would have the same effect on a national scale, notwithstanding its assurance that "nothing in this Act…shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment."

Read the whole thing in the New York Post.

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35 responses to “Why the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Would Chill Constitutionally Protected Speech

  1. Sullum, your link loops back to this article.

    1. Try this link, it’s guaranteed to work for anyone with a large penis.

    2. Are you saying he’s not a credible source?

  2. It’s okay, I understand that the universities and colleges are all in favor of restricting “hate speech”, so I’m sure none will object to this.

    1. Parse “hate speech isnt free speech”. In that statement ‘free speech’ is not a right, it is some particular bit of speech. The purveyors of that bullshit either don’t know what freedom is or do not recognize negative rights. In fact, that statement is pure nonsense.

      1. The 1st Amendment is very easy to understand. Free expression of goodthink is a fundamental human right and is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Expression of crimethink, however, is obviously a crime. Burning a flag, shouting fire in a crowded theater, or expressing a thought outside of the 3-by-5 card of allowable opinion can never be condoned. I don’t see why libertarians find this so difficult.

  3. “nothing in this Act…shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment.”

    I’m sure that will do as much good as “shall not be infringed” or “Congress shall make no law.”

    1. You need the magic glasses to read the end of all of the amendments where it says:”except if the government claims a compelling interest to do so.”

      1. For the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms you don’t even need the magic glasses, it says it in the first line.

        1. Canadian Charter of Permissions?

      2. Yeah, raising ‘Awareness’ sounds reasonable. This is a ‘sense of the Senate’ type act – virtue signaling. But like all laws could be used for evil or good purposes. Unnecessary but risky to oppose.

    2. “Constitutional rights are subject to reasonable regulation.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016

    3. I’m sure that will do as much good as “shall not be infringed” or “Congress shall make no law.”

      They can join, “[O]r prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” right there in the already full dustbin.

    4. It’s lawyerese for “We like free speech, but…”

  4. Unanimous huh. So Rand Paul was a yes, yes? What a disappointment.

    1. Maybe he just didn’t want to give the Democrats the opportunity to call him an anti-semite in the next election cycle for being the only one opposed, since there was no chance of it not passing anyway.

      1. That’s likely the case. Then again, maybe he agrees with it and thinks it’s a good idea. Because he’s a bit of an ideological niche candidate, pragmatic passing of bad legislation will only hurt his chances.

  5. Suspend the drama. Didn’t Ron Wyden co-sponsor the act? Tim Scott sponsored it. And, because unanimously passed, one might safely assume that Rand Paul favors it.

    Why an “awareness” act? – “Awareness of this definition of anti-Semitism will increase understanding of the parameters of contemporary anti-Jewish conduct and will assist the Department of Education in determining whether an investigation of anti-Semitism under title VI is warranted.”

    Relelvant text: “In reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.) on the basis of race, color, or national origin, based on an individual’s actual or perceived shared Jewish ancestry or Jewish ethnic characteristics, the Department of Education shall take into consideration the definition of anti-Semitism as part of the Department’s assessment of whether the alleged practice was motivated by anti-Semitic intent.”

    That’s it – _shall take into consideration_ the definition of anti-Smitism. And the “definition” is that used by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the Department of State.

    1. Paul favored it, so what? Appeals to authority aren’t going to work too well here.

      1. But…but…don’t you care about the views of “the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the Department of State?”

        1. To be fair, though, the Department of State deals with foreign nations, and modern American colleges seem like foreign nations in many ways.

      2. Not an appeal to authority to accept something without reason, but an appeal to observe the actions of persons who would be held accountable for passing the Act – persons perhaps not so far from your way of thinking – so that someone might pause and rethink his initial reaction. More succinctly, it’s an appeal to cut the drama queenery and consider what’s really in the act.

        1. Misjudged the intent of your comment I suppose. My bad.

  6. “The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, a.k.a. S. 10, was introduced in the Senate, read three times, and approved by unanimous consent”

    Sounds like someone is casting a spell.

    1. Laws ARE magic, pass one and it solves whatevet problem you have, without any negative side effects.

    2. Read it three times, jump over a broom, sacrifice a lamb and a maiden of virtue true-walla, done. The important question is did they have a pizza party afterwards?

  7. a controversial State Department definition of anti-Semitism that includes one-sided criticism of Israel and opposition to Zionism.

    Having that as a definition is reasonable. Using that definition to stifle free expression is unconscionable.

  8. Is being pro-Israel and pro-Arab considered anti-semitic?

    1. The key words are “one sided.”

      “Anti-Zionism” has become the cover for anti-semitism. The overlap is not 100%, but it’s pretty close. In my jaundiced view, being pro-Arab and pro-Israel are not at all mutually exclusive- one can (and I do) feel that the greatest enemy and obstacle to the well-being of Arabs living in Israel (whether in pre or post 1967) is other Arabs, especially the corrupt “leaders” of Hamas and Fatah. Opposing those leaders and their institutions is very much pro-Arab.

      1. As is favoring a non-intervention policy for the US absent an attack or a credible threat to the US. I.e., the libertarian view of foreign policy.

  9. This is a tough one. Technically it’s true this is anti first amendment, bur these BDS assholes are so fucking fascist.

  10. Jews are not weak, Jews are weak, remember that.

  11. denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination

    This is the one that really gets me. Why? Because the American Zionists always say, “Sure we send them billions in military aid – but it’s not up to us to intervene in their internal affairs.” Now they can add: “And it’s ILLEGAL for you to suggest otherwise.”

  12. Is Sheldon Richman in an extended time-out? I thought he handled this stuff?

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