State Representative Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) has pre-filed House Bill 1, which will be known as the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act. The FORUM Act is a policy that seeks to protect free speech, while also respecting the principles of academic freedom.
“Free speech is a non-partisan issue,” said Rep. Bonner. “Our public universities are meant to be safe forums where ideas could be debated, but over the years, the ability of students to exercise their First Amendment rights has been greatly diminished. The FORUM Act would help protect and clarify those rights and hold our government accountable if they are suppressed. By implementing constitutional standards on free expression, schools can minimize the risk of costly litigation and create an environment where free speech and academic inquiry can thrive.”
The FORUM Act seeks to protect students’ First Amendment rights in three ways. First, it would effectively end “speech zones” by adding protections in the law for where and when students can speak on campus. Second, it would eliminate speech codes in Georgia’s laws by protecting what students can say. Finally, the bill would protect “freedom of association” by protecting with whom students can express ideas and how they choose to do so. House Bill 1 will be formally introduced during the upcoming 2021 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, which begins January 11, 2021.
Rep. Bonner decided to introduce the FORUM Act after learning of several students across the state, including Chike Uzuegbunam, who believe their First Amendment rights were inhibited on campuses.
In 2016, Georgia Gwinnett College officials reportedly stopped student Uzuegbunam twice from sharing his Christian faith with other students on his college campus. Additionally, Rep. Bonner highlights a separate incident at Georgia Tech in which the university’s student government denied funding for a Students for Life speaking event featuring Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Reports state that such funding was available to other clubs for their events, but Student for Life’s request was denied because King is “inherently religious.”
Representative Josh Bonner represents the citizens of District 72, which includes portions of Coweta and Fayette counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2016, and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Economic Development, Economic Development & Tourism, Human Relations & Aging, Interstate Cooperation and Industry and Labor committees.