A landmark South Carolina bill to fight on-campus anti-Semitism, that overwhelmingly passed the state’s House of Representatives in March, and which has dozens of senators as co-sponsors, is being blocked by a single state senator, The State reported Wednesday.
The bill, H3643, which was introduced by Sen. Alan Clemmons, requires that state universities use the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, when evaluating the intent of students who carry out acts targeting Jewish students.
Sen. Brad Hutto, has voiced objections to the bill on free speech grounds.
However, Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights explained in March, that the bill in no way limits anti-Semitic speech, but rather addresses anti-Semitic acts.
“The bill provides South Carolina with a uniform definition of anti-Semitism in determining whether harassment, intimidation, assaults, vandalism or other discriminatory behavior is motivated by anti-Semitism. Contrary to misunderstandings about the bill, it in no way regulates or restricts free speech and/or academic freedom,” he said.
“Much anti-Semitic hate speech is constitutionally protected, just like racist and sexist speech. The bill will not change that. Rather, it ensures authorities consider the federal government’s definition of anti-Semitism when it is necessary to determine the intent of unprotected activities, including assault, battery and vandalism,” Marcus added.
Similarly, South Carolina’s two U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, after observing that a recent study showed that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 45% from the 2015 to the 2016 academic year, wrote last week:
When we introduced the federal version of this bill — The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act — in December, it passed the Senate unanimously. Though the House did not have the chance to vote on their companion bill before the legislative session ended, the bill is likely going to be reintroduced in the coming weeks.
We are pleased that H.3643 was carefully drafted along the same lines of our own bill in order to ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
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