Free Speech Bill Inspires Controversy

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Magnus Manske

Sabrina Abesamis, Opinion Editor
March 30, 2012
Filed under Opinion

Students at Florida public schools will soon be able to say whatever they want at school events. Be it political statements or prayers, these “inspirational messages” could be presented uncensored at any mandatory school assembly. Ridiculous as this may seem, the Florida House passed SB 98 by an overwhelming majority, 88-27.  Now, the bill must only await Governor Rick Scott’s approval.

The obvious flaws within the bill make its smooth passing almost shameful. The bill’s toleration of any and all religious, political, or even hateful messages is a dangerous take on freedom of speech, blurring the lines between church and state while opening up a Pandora’s box of litigation.  Students would be able to read and say whatever they choose, including say, the Aryan Satanic Manifesto, which an opponent of the bill, in an effort to demonstrate its lack of constraints, read during its hearing last week. Creator of the bill, Rep. Charles Van Zant’s response? “That would be the students’ prerogative because of our constitutional freedom of speech.”

Liberating as that may seem, I doubt it would be in the best interest of the entire student body to hear the Anti-Semitic ramblings of a fellow peer during a school event. A more appropriate setting, such as a private home gathering, seems a bit more suitable, and less prone towards getting sued. Even a discussion at a club meeting after school would be more suitable because at least students wouldn’t be required to attend or participate. That any speeches can occur at a mandatory assembly is unfair and unjust, forcing students to participate in things they may not be comfortable with hearing or doing.

Imagine the horror if the two Santaluces girls were able to say their now infamous racist rant, which went viral last month. School assemblies would become truly offensive, or at least extremely awkward.

And yet, regardless of its lack of limitations and opposition by the American Civil Liberties Union and Anti-Defamation League, the bill will most likely become a law. At least I’ll have the right to speak against it at WHS’s next pep rally.

 

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