WATCH: ADF Senior Counsel breaks down Indiana Free Speech Bill

Campus Reform Reporter Alexa Schwerha spoke with ADF Senior Counsel Zach Pruitt about a new law in Indiana that reinforces free speech rights on public universities.

Campus Reform Reporter Alexa Schwerha sat down with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Zach Pruitt to break down new policy adopted in Indiana that protects free speech on public campuses.

House Bill 1190 was signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb on Mar. 15. Under the law, public colleges and universities will be prohibited from violating students’ First amendment rights by invoking free speech zones or discriminating against student organizations due to political affiliation.

Pruitt broke down the measures that university administrators take to block free speech on campus, as well as restrict and regulate specific types of speech.

”It’s one thing to have the First Amendment and it’s another thing to have the First Amendment applied faithfully by college administrators,” Pruitt explained. “So many times what we see is that, despite having robust First Amendment protections and great precedents from the Supreme Court, college administrators are more concerned about protecting certain types of speech and certain types of behavior.”

According to Pruitt, administrators curb free speech protections through codes of conduct and policies that outline what is permissible by the First Amendment. 

Campus Reform has covered numerous instances of colleges and universities restricting free speech notoriously by suspending conservative student organizations, establishing free speech zones, or shutting down speaker events.

Pruitt detailed that it is important for the Indiana law to not only correct laws and ensure compliance with Supreme Court jurisprudence, but that the culture of free speech on college campuses is impacted.

”[T]his is at least one more step in the right direction of creating a culture of free speech,” Pruitt acknowledged. “And that’s kind of the ultimate goal here.”

By requiring administrators to enforce laws protecting free speech, such policies will begin to be firmly reflected in student handbooks and staff training.

Campus Reform has previously reported on attempts to administer free speech training to university staff. At the University of Iowa, a free speech program intended for faculty and students was called into question after a panel taught participants how to recognize and report speech that may violate university policy/values.

Pruitt touched on these concerns, as well, admitting that training programs required for administrators and students can result in, inadvertently, restricting speech. However, he proposed high hopes that the Indiana bill will create a culture of respecting all speech.

”The hope is that with bills like the one we just passed in Indiana, we can not only change the laws for good but also change the culture for good to help discourage or dissuade administrators from doing this for trainings on campus,” he said.

Watch the above video for the full interview.

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