1AP’s 3 Things to Know — Louisiana Campus Free Speech Legislation (SB 364)
Across the country, college students face threats to free speech on campus as administrators try to silence unpopular viewpoints. States have recently begun passing legislation that protects the free speech and free association rights granted by the 1stAmendment and state constitutional law to students at public colleges and universities.
This spring, Louisiana passed a campus free speech law, SB 364,that protects the rights of students to speak, protest, and form groups on campus.
Here Are 3 Things to Know:
- The past few years have seen a troubling movement happening at state universities, where student religious groups are being kicked-off campus. As state agencies, public institutions of higher education must uphold the rights to free speech, free association, and religious freedom of their students. However, some administrators apply policies that infringe on these rights, like limiting students to tiny “free speech zones” or prohibiting criteria for leadership in student-run clubs. Laws like SB 364 remind universities that fundamental speech rights outweigh expedience or disagreement with the disfavored beliefs some students might hold.
- SB 364 ensures that student religious groups are free to choose their leaders — just like all other student groups. Several years ago, the Muslim Student Association at LSU lost recognized status for refusing to amend its constitution to state that it would not discriminate on the basis of (among other things) religion. The group felt that this change contradicted its expressive purpose and would hinder its ability to operate in accordance with its mission. Fortunately, LSU backed down and reinstated the group after intervention by national 1stAmendment advocates, but similar incidents are happening at universities nationwide. The freedom to set criteria for leadership or membership is crucial for faith-based groups that want to create a community around shared beliefs.
- Louisiana is the 10thstate to pass legislation protecting religious groups on campus. In recent years, nine other states have passed similar protections, and it is also included in the current version of the federal PROSPER Act bill. This commonsense protection passed the Louisiana Senate unanimously. Having the freedom to express yourself and live out your beliefs is critical to the truth-seeking that’s at the center of the mission of higher education. SB 346 guarantees that Louisiana students have the opportunity to wrestle with tough issues, build communities, and speak freely.
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