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Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act on Wednesday, a bill that protects the First Amendment rights of students at public universities from unconstitutional speech codes and so-called free speech zones.

The legislation also requires private colleges and universities to honestly disclose their policies on free expression and obligates private institutions to uphold the policies they disclose. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Katie Britt (R-Alabama), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Ted Budd (R-North Carolina), and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) are co-sponsors of the legislation. Congressman Greg Murphy (North Carolina-03) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Too many of America’s public colleges have attacked the First Amendment rights of their students using so-called free speech zones and unconstitutional speech codes. This bill fights back against campus censors in order to defend open debate and free speech, which lead us to truth,” said Senator Cotton.

Bill text may be found here.

The Campus Free Speech Restoration Act would:

  • Establish the sense of Congress that students should be free to express and hold their opinions on matters of religion and philosophy on college campuses; that free speech zones and restrictive speech codes are contrary to the First Amendment; and that public colleges should not restrict the First Amendment rights of their students.
  • Prohibit public colleges from restricting free speech and expression on campus, except in limited and viewpoint-neutral circumstances consistent with the First Amendment.
  • Require private colleges and universities that receive federal funding to be transparent about their speech policies and enforce those policies in a consistent and neutral manner.
  • Create a review process within the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education to determine whether campus speech policies infringe on the First Amendment rights of individuals on campus, on penalty of losing federal funding.
  • Create a cause of action in federal court for the Attorney General or other parties to challenge restrictions on speech and expression on campus.
  • Make sure the requirements of the Act do not apply to colleges and universities controlled by religious institutions.

Author: Press Release


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