The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 22, passed State Rep. Matt Fridy’s (R-Montevallo) House Bill 498, a bill intended to safeguard freedom of speech on college campuses in the state of Alabama.
This bill would require Alabama’s public colleges and universities to protect and adopt policies that uphold the First Amendment free speech rights for all students and faculty. HB 498 additionally provides the possibility of legal action for violations by any higher education, public institution.
HB 498 eliminates wildly broad and ambiguous speech policies that infringe on expression protected by the U.S. and state constitutions. The bill also eliminates so-called “free speech zones.” Leftists proposed the installment of “safe zones,” but the proposition was quickly shut down.
The proposal of this bill empowers public institutions to protect free expression for members of their campus community and from unlawful violations by other members of such community.
This bill is set to counter university policies in the state of Alabama that violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.
This bill sparks interest because of two particular universities. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Alabama A&M University and University of North Alabama placed on the list of “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.”
Sean Ross of Yellowhammer News writes, “Prominent National Review commentator and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center Stanley Kurtz spoke in ardent support of the bill, decrying the ‘shout down culture’ growing on college campuses nationwide.”
The ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall spoke in opposition to HB 498, with the caveat that the bill contains some good provisions.
However, Marshall concluded, allowing colleges to enact anti-discrimination policies outweigh individuals’ right to free speech and expression despite the freedom of speech being in the Constitutional Bill of Rights for every individual.
When asked about HB 498 by Yellowhammer News, a spokesman for Auburn University said, “We typically don’t comment on pending legislation, but Auburn leaders have worked with the bill’s sponsors to ensure they know that Auburn stands for free speech and robust exploration of ideas. We likewise stand for respect, equality and other principles fundamental to American society. While people have a right to voice their opinions, we also have a responsibility to speak up when others espouse racism, bigotry, hatred or other offensive views.”
The final vote on HB 498 was almost entirely by party line and came out 62-27 – this bill is now headed for Senate approval!
Currently, there are seven Turning Point USA chapters on colleges and high schools across Alabama, in which, freedom of speech is of utmost value.
Every week on university campuses, the freedom of speech is challenged when TPUSA activists are verbally assaulted, ideologically shut down, and morally beaten.
However, this is a Constitutional right for those against Turning Point USA members to speak out.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment
By reinforcing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Alabama and states with similar legislation are reinstating the most important value when it is being infringed upon on university and highschool territory.