Florida Judge Says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘Stop Woke’ Law Is Unconstitutional

by | Aug 18, 2022 | Politics

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge on Thursday declared a Florida law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that restricts race-based conversation and analysis in business and education unconstitutional.Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said in a 44-page ruling that the “Stop WOKE” act violates the First Amendment and is impermissibly vague. Walker also refused to issue a stay that would keep the law in effect during any appeal by the state.AdvertisementThe law targets what DeSantis has called a “pernicious” ideology exemplified by critical race theory — the idea that racism is systemic in U.S. institutions that serve to perpetuate white dominance in society.Walker said the law, as applied to diversity, inclusion and bias training in businesses, turns the First Amendment “upside down” because the state is barring speech by prohibiting discussion of certain concepts in training programs.“If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case,” the judge wrote. “But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.”The governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. DeSantis has repeatedly said any losses at the lower court level on his priorities are likely to be reversed by appeals courts that are generally more conservative.AdvertisementThe law prohibits teaching or business practices that contend members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others. It also bars the notion that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.The ruling Thursday came in one of three lawsuits challenging the Stop Woke act. It was filed by private entities, Clearwater-based Honeyfund.com and others, claiming their free speech rights are curtailed because the law infringes on company training programs stressing diversity, inclusion, elimination of bias and prevention of workplace harassment. Companies with 15 or more employees could face civil lawsuits over such practices.That lawsuit says Honeyfund seeks to protect the rights of private employers to “engage in open and free exchange of information with employees to identify and begin to address discrimination and harm” in their organizations.Another lawsuit, which was filed Thursday by college professors and students, claims the law amounts to “racially motivated censorship” that will act to “stifle widespread demands to discuss, study and address systemic inequalities” underscored by the national discussion of race after the killing of George Floyd, who was Black, by Minneapolis police in May 2020.“In place of free and open academic inquiry and debate, instructors fear discussing topics of oppression, privilege, and race and gender inequalities with which the Legislature disagrees,” the lawsuit says. “As a result, students are either denied access to knowledge altogether or instructors are forced to present incomplete or ina …

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