Judge Blocks ‘Dystopian’ Florida Ban on Teaching Race, Gender

(Bloomberg) — Florida’s new law restricting how race and gender can be taught at state universities has been partially suspended by a federal judge, who opened his decision with a quote from George Orwell’s 1984: “A cold day it was bright in April, and the clocks struck thirteen.”

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The law, championed by Governor Ron DeSantis as a way to “fight back against woke indoctrination,” likely violates the First Amendment and is “positively dystopian,” said the Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker in Thursday’s ruling, granting a preliminary injunction. sought by rights groups and academics.

The ruling prevents the Florida State University System’s Board of Governors from enforcing much of the law while the case proceeds. Walker said the order was justified because the law could cause “irreparable injury” to professors who are likely to win the case.

“One thing is clear — strong intellectual inquiry and democracy need light to thrive,” said Walker, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. “Our professors are vital to a healthy democracy, and Florida State’s decision to choose which perspectives are worth illuminating and which must remain in the shadows has implications for all of us.”

A lawyer for the Board of Governors did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Lawyers for the state argued in court filings that the law was needed to prevent liberal professors from “endorsing that members of one race are morally superior to members of another, that they are inherently racist individuals by virtue of their race alone, or that the moral character of the person must be determined by his or her.”

The state argued in court papers that the First Amendment did not apply because the Florida government “simply chose to regulate its own speech – the curriculum used at state universities and the in-class instruction provided by state employees.” “

The governor signed the bill into law in April, as DeSantis was positioning himself as the Republican choice over former President Donald Trump.

In practice, the law restricts teaching about racial power dynamics in the US, the history of slavery and discrimination, and any meaningful discussion of affirmative action, according to the complaint, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund . .

The law is “racially motivated censorship” passed by lawmakers “to thwart widespread demands to discuss, study and address systemic inequality” after the murder of George Floyd,” the plaintiffs claim.

Walker’s ruling suggested the role of academics in society.

“If our ‘priests of democracy’ are not allowed to shed light on challenging ideas, democracy will die in the dark,” said the judge. “The First Amendment does not allow the State of Florida to disprove its university professors, impose its own view of orthodoxy, and throw us all into the dark.”

The case is Pernell v. Florida Board of Governors of the State University System, 4:22-cv-304, US District Court, Northern District of Florida (Tallahassee).

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