The Mississippi Senate needs to hear from you. Let your senator know you support legislation designed to protect students’ free speech rights from the liberal bias on college and university campuses.
The bill (HB 1200) protects a student’s constitutional right to free speech. This much-needed legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Mississippi House, but the fate of the bill is now in the hands of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R), Sen. Rita Potts Parks (R-Corinth), and Sen. Chris Johnson (R-Hattiesburg).
Lt. Gov. Hosemann double-referred the bill to the Universities and Colleges Committee chaired by Sen. Parks and to the Constitution Committee chaired by Sen. Johnson.
Contact your senator now! If the free speech bill does not pass out of committee by June 9, the bill is dead.
The free speech bill includes Christian students’ rights to free speech at Mississippi public universities and colleges, where currently their religious freedoms are limited to particular places on campus. For example, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, Christian students could be limited to areas that public universities call “free speech zones.” Restricting constitutionally protected free speech is not free speech.
This is the case, for example, at Delta State University, which has implemented policies restricting free speech to specific areas called “free speech zones.” At the University of Mississippi, students’ free speech is limited to designated areas named “Speakers’ Corners.” A constitutional right to free speech is protected within these zones, but if a student speaks outside a zone or “corner,” that free speech is not necessarily protected.
Sequestering students in a “corner” where they can freely speak is regressive liberalism designed to strangle the free expression of ideas. Consider a student sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ outside a free speech zone. She could be in violation of the university’s policy if the person hearing the gospel finds the message offensive. She could also be subject to discipline, even dismissal, for sharing the gospel. This bill would protect student’s free speech outside these zones.
Consider, too, a student organization hosting a pro-life event at a Mississippi university. This bill would legally protect pro-life speech from harassment by pro-abortion advocates.
The free speech bill introduced by Rep. Stacey Wilkes (R-Picayune) will restore a constitutional right to free speech by eliminating restrictive zones. The bill also requires administrators, campus police, etc., to understand their duties regarding free expression on campus. It also empowers the Mississippi Legislature to hold universities accountable by requiring each institution to report on free speech issues prior to the Legislature’s appropriations process.
Recent polling of 625 registered Mississippi voters about campus free speech found that 83% of Mississippi voters support a law that “would protect speech for all college students, even if others disagree with their point of view.” The poll also shows strong support for campus free speech across political parties: 78% Democratic, 88% Republican, and 80% Independent.
Mississippi universities and colleges should support this legislation because it helps them track, report, and respond to issues in a way that protects university resources while, at the same time, protecting the free speech rights of students.