EXCLUSIVE: Georgia state rep pushes campus free speech bill. Guess who opposes it.
Georgia State Representative Josh Bonner spoke with Campus Reform to discuss prefiling the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act.
The bill, which Bonner claims is a first of its kind in Georgia, is aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses.
Georgia State Representative Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) spoke with Campus Reform to discuss prefiling the FORUM Act, a bill aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses. Bonner said the legislation is a first of its kind in Georgia.
The bill has three primary goals which include making a college campus in its entirety a "free speech zone," eliminating speech codes, and protecting freedom of association.
Bonner explained that this bill was inspired by stories of various college students who have had their first Amendment rights curtailed.
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“We have cases like that every year, where the rights of our students are somehow impacted by our university system,” Bonner told Campus Reform.
He shared a local story out of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where a pro-life group invited evangelist Alveda King to speak on campus but was denied by the student government, as Campus Reform previously reported.
According to Bonner, a lawsuit was filed and the case was settled, however, the university system still had to pay more than $50,000 in damage for that single case. Bonner said the state of Georgia is seeing increasing instances of free speech being limited on college campuses for both sides of the aisle.
Bonner introduced this bill last legislative session, and it was ready to be voted on, but they decided to pull it. When the bill was assigned to the Higher Education Committee, Bonner claimed that the verbiage was “watered down significantly,” and he wanted to ensure that the bill truly protected students’ First Amendment rights.
[RELATED: Republicans propose legislation penalizing public colleges that restrict free speech]
However, Bonner says the bill is facing pushback from both the progressive left and the university system itself. He explained that he feels the left only likes free speech when it falls in line with their narrative. On the other hand, he says the universities do not think there is a problem with free speech.
“So we’re almost fighting a two-front battle with the university system and then the progressive left that is all for free speech as long as it’s their speech, and as long as it something that doesn’t you know somehow in some way go against what they are trying to preach,” said Bonner.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JezzamineWolk