Appeals court strikes down University of Central Florida speech code

A federal appeals court struck down the University of Central Florida’s speech code Thursday night, siding with conservatives who accused the public research institution of using anti-bias policies to silence right thinking.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said it was unanimously overturning the university’s discriminatory harassment policy and other anti-bias policies for being “almost certainly unconstitutionally too broad”.

Judge Kevin Newsom, joined by Judge Stanley Marcus and District Judge Richard Story, noted that the university’s anti-bias policies punish a wide range of verbal and electronic expression on topics ranging from “race” and from “religion” to “political affiliation” and “gender.”

“The discriminatory harassment policy objectively chills speech because its application would cause a reasonable student to fear expressing potentially unpopular beliefs,” Judge Newsom wrote in the notice.

Judge Marcus wrote in his concurring opinion that “a society risks falling into the abyss of ignorance” when it sacrifices the search for truth to other concerns.

“History provides us with many warnings of times and places where colleges and universities ceased to seek truth and instead became cathedrals for the worship of certain dogmas,” Judge Marcus wrote.

Judge Story, who sits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, sat on the decision by designation.

All three judges were appointed by President Trump.

The Orlando-based university did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The university’s policy on discriminatory harassment prohibits this type of harassment, stating that it “can take many forms, including verbal acts, name calling, graphic or written statements (via the use of cell phones or the Internet), or other behavior that may be humiliating or physical”. threatening.”

Speech First, a nonprofit of American students and alumni, filed a lawsuit in February 2021 on behalf of three anonymous UCF students who said the policies made it clear they would suffer for expressing their opinions on burning political issues.

The group said the college’s discriminatory harassment policy, computer use policy and bias incident response team are intended to restrict, deter and suppress such views.

Florida’s Intermediate District initially ruled that Speech First did not have the right to sue under the First Amendment, noting that the university’s Bias Incident Response Team could only ‘dismiss’ students to administrators to punish them.

Judge Newsom reversed that decision, saying the district court wrongly ignored whether the policies themselves were constitutional.

In his view, he quoted the words of a UCF student from the original complaint.

The judge noted that Student A wanted to express the views that “abortion is immoral”, that the government “should not be able to force religious organizations to recognize marriages with which they do not agree”, that “affirmative action is profoundly unfair”, that “a man cannot become a woman because he ‘feels’ like one” and that “illegal immigration is dangerous”.

Cherise Trump, executive director of Speech First, claimed victory on Friday.

“This court ruling should send an alarming message to anyone who tries to chill, silence or intimidate the views of others,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement.

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