Although many on the left support free speech for those they agree with, they seem to abhor letting those they disagree with exercise the same right. As a result, they actively try to have them silenced. Some of their most popular tactics for doing so include blocking entrances, disrupting events, using violence and intimidation, and destroying property.
To stop this from happening, some state lawmakers have tried to pass legislation obligating colleges and universities to crack down on this type of censorship. Sadly, one of the most recent attempts to do so wasn’t very successful.
Earlier this week, a bill protecting free speech on college campuses was struck down in Louisiana. To justify vetoing the bill, the Governor argued that speech was already protected on college campuses and claimed the legislation “overly burdensome.”
According to reports, John Bel Edwards (D), the Governor of Louisiana, recently vetoed HB 269 despite the fact that it received a massive amount of support from state lawmakers. Specifically, the bill, which was modeled after a law in Arizona, passed the State Senate 30-2 and the State House 95-0. If signed, it would’ve required state colleges and universities to revise their policies and regulations to better protect free speech, highlight the importance of free speech during freshman orientation, and create a panel on the board of regents to review any free speech complaints.
Unfortunately, Gov. Edwards thinks that establishing such policies are “unnecessary and overly burdensome” to colleges and universities. “The freedoms this bill attempts to protect are already well-established by the bedrock principles declared in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” he explained upon striking down the legislation.
“The protection of speech has survived and flourished in the 226 years since the adoption of the First Amendment, and it will continue to do so without [Harris’ bill] becoming the law of Louisiana,” added Edwards. “[it’s] a solution in search of a problem that creates a long, detailed structure for the evaluation of the freedom of expression on college campuses,” he continued.
However, Edward’s comments could not be further from the truth. After a careful review of colleges in Louisiana, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which scores the constitutionality of university policies using red, yellow, and green “lights,” failed to find any “green light” schools. What they found instead were six “red light” schools and three “yellow light” schools, meaning “tens of thousands of college students in Louisiana attend institutions that maintain unconstitutional policies.”
For example, McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has an anti-bullying policy that ignores intent. As a consequence, school administrators could potentially punish someone even if they never actually meant to be mean, which could have a “chilling effect” on speech. This means that some may be too afraid to speak freely since doing so could be interpreted as “unintentional bullying.”
Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), the House Republican Caucus Chairman, is the main sponsor of the failed legislation. He proposed the bill in response to the University of Berkeley’s decision to essentially cancel Ann Coulter’s speaking event earlier this year due to what they called “safety concerns” because far-left extremists threatened to engage in violence if she was allowed to speak. If signed, schools would be obligated to hold those using violence and intimidation to silence others accountable for their actions.
Following Governor Edward’s decision, Harris plans on meeting with him, figuring out what went wrong, and trying again. “I’m going to be looking at different versions. I hope I can visit with the governor and see what he didn’t like about this one,” he told reporters shortly after the bill was vetoed. “Freedom of speech is under siege on college campuses around the country,” he continued, adding, “I think it’s critically important that Louisiana be proactive on this issue.”
The authoritarian left must not be allowed to use violence and intimidation to silence others. Bills like HB 269 help make sure that this doesn’t happen by making it clear that colleges and universities have an obligation to protect the free speech of their students. Gov. Edwards and anyone else opposed to the legislation need to be voted out of office and replaced by people willing to do more to protect speech.