Judge Blocks Florida Law Curbing Professors’ Speech

November 17, 2022

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Thursday blocked key provisions of a Florida state law that curbs professors from endorsing particular viewpoints in public university classrooms, calling the measure “positively dystopian.”

The Tallahassee-based judge said in a 139-page ruling that Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, also known as the Stop WOKE Act, would have unlawfully required public university professors to self-censor.

The ruling came in consolidated lawsuits filed by professors and students challenging the law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed in April.

“The First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark,” Walker wrote, adding that rather “than combat ‘woke’ ideas with countervailing views in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ the state has chosen to eliminate one side of the debate.”

Attorneys for the Florida attorney general’s office had argued that the state had full power to restrict what public university professors, as state employees, could say in their classrooms.

Neither a spokesperson for DeSantis nor the attorney general’s office immediately responded to requests for comment.

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