I saw a rather bizarre bill from the Florida state legislature come across my radar the other day. House Bill 741 amends the existing Florida law prohibiting discrimination in the K-12 public school system to include extremely specific language pertaining only to the Jews.
I call it bizarre because no other religion/race is delineated in Florida law with such distinction; only the Jews receive such special treatment. The bill specifically defines the following list as being antisemitic, and therefore illegal discrimination, under Florida law:
1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews, often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective, especially, but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
3. Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the State of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
4. Accusing Jews as a people or the State of Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
5. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.
(b) Examples of anti-Semitism related to Israel include:
1. Demonizing Israel by using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions.
2. Applying a double standard to Israel by requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel.
3. Delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.
However, criticism of Israel that is similar to criticism toward any other country may not be regarded as anti-Semitic.
(c) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the State Constitution. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to conflict with federal or state discrimination laws.
I love how they tack the “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” on at the end.
Now, the bulk of the bill is actually pretty decent. It basically makes it illegal for the K-12 system to discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or marital status. So this left me scratching my head as to why the Jews needed to be delineated with such excruciating specificality.
With a little digging, I think I understand more what this is about. Laywers.com informs us of Laws Prohibiting Discrimination in Public Schools
When Harassment is Discrimination
Harassment based on sex, race, national origin, or disability is a form of illegal discrimination. That means that when school officials know it’s going on, they’re legally obligated to take action to stop the harassment, if it’s so serious that it limits the victim’s ability to participate in or benefit from educational opportunities or activities. And in some circumstances, students (or their parents) can successfully sue a school for not trying to stop the harassment.
What About Religious Discrimination?
Title VI doesn’t directly address discrimination based on religion. But often, religious-based harassment includes slurs (or worse) based on stereotypes about the victims’ ethnicity or national origin—like calling them terrorists because they come from a predominantly Muslim country. In that case, the federal law would apply. And of course, all students have a constitutional right to the free expression of their religion.
So this Florida law basically rolls religion into the legal framework of discrimination, which now obligates school officials to stop students from engaging in the “harassment” of Jews, which is defined as proclaiming any of the aforementioned beliefs.
Thus, at least as far as I can interpret this with my limited legal knowledge, if a student was walking around a Florida public school with a t-shirt that claimed only a million Jews were killed during the holocaust instead of six million, and the staff didn’t take action against that student to “stop the harassment of Jews”, the school could be sued.
I could be wrong, but at least that’s what I’m getting out of this. I can’t think of any other reason why they would have to define “antisemitism” in such a highly delineated fashion such as this if the intent wasn’t to go after the students themselves.
It’s not a law yet, as the Governor still needs to sign it, but all indications are that this will be signed into law very shortly, probably when the Florida Governor makes his pilgrimage to Israel. It should make for some good pro-Israeli PR while he’s there.