Yesterday’s blog post noted that Florida man Ron DeSantis is a favorite of the New Right. A recent judicial opinion, striking down one of his many outrageous attacks on the Constitutional rights of Florida citizens explains why.
A federal judge on Thursday halted a key piece of the “Stop-WOKE” Act touted by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, blocking state officials from enforcing what he called a “positively dystopian” policy restricting how lessons on race and gender can be taught in colleges and universities.
The 138-page order from Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker is being heralded as a major win for campus free speech by the groups who challenged the state.
Among other “dystopian” provisions of DeSantis’ anti-woke law were rules about what university professors could–and could not–say in the classroom. As the Judge noted in his opinion, the law gave the state “unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom.'”
Florida legislators passed DeSantis’ “Individual Freedom Act” earlier this year (a label reminiscent of George W. Bush’s anti-environmental “Blue Skies” Act..). The law prohibits schools and private companies from
leveling guilt or blame to students and employees based on race or sex, takes aim at lessons over issues like “white privilege” by creating new protections for students and workers, including that a person should not be instructed to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin.
The judge ruled that such policies violate both First Amendment free speech protections and 14th Amendment due-process rights on college campuses.
The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints,” wrote Walker. “Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian.”
This particular lawsuit challenged the application of the anti-Woke law to colleges and universities; other pending challenges assert that the law is illegal and unconstitutional when applied to K-12 schools and to the workplace.
In a column discussing the law and the ruling, Jennifer Rubin noted,
The law, for example, bars discussion of the concept that a person “by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.” During oral arguments, when asked if this would bar professors from supporting affirmative action in classroom settings, attorneys for the state government answered, “Your Honor, yes.”
Walker cited that admission, finding:
Thus, Defendants assert the idea of affirmative action is so “repugnant” that instructors can no longer express approval of affirmative action as an idea worthy of merit during class instruction. … What does this mean in practical terms? Assuming the University of Florida Levin College of Law decided to invite Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to speak to a class of law students, she would be unable to offer this poignant reflection about her own lived experience, because it endorses affirmative action.
The law so blatantly violates the concept of free speech that one wonders if remedial constitutional education should be a requirement for Florida officeholders.
No wonder the so-called intellectuals of the New Right see DeSantis as one of their own. He has consistently used his position and the power of the state to suppress the expression of views he dislikes. Rubin reminds readers of DeSantis’ “don’t say gay” law, his statute banning “critical race theory” in schools and his attempt to fire an elected county prosecutor who criticized his abortion policies. To which I would add his attacks on voting rights and his (successful) gerrymandering efforts.
DeSantis has also regularly flexed his power as governor: excluding media from events, taking public proceedings behind closed doors (including the selection of the University of Florida’s president) and exacting revenge on supposedly woke corporations such as Disney.
DeSantis’s contempt for dissent and his crackdown on critics should not be discounted. This is the profile of a constitutional ignoramus, a bully and a strongman. Voters should be forewarned.
DeSantis, Trump and the New Right sure don’t look anything like the libertarian, limited-government GOP I once knew…The only part of Rubin’s critique with which I disagree is her labeling of DeSantis as a “constitutional ignoramus.” It’s much worse than that.
Unlike Trump, who is an ignoramus, DeSantis knows better. He just doesn’t care.