Rep. Bonner files college campus free speech legislation

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Rep. Josh Bonner
Rep. Josh Bonner

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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. “OBVIOUSLY (emphasis added), Rep. Bonner’s legislation is merely an end run around the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause.” – Stranger Than Fiction

    For ease of reference for our readers, here’s the text of the First Amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union side with the Alliance Defending Freedom in one of the cases Bonner says motivated him to file this bill.

    The case is Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.

    Here’s a link to the amicus curiae (friend of the court brief) filed with the U.S. Supreme Court showing American’s United, the ACLU, and the ADF advocating together to protect this young man’s free exercise of his First Amendment rights:

    http://www.adfmedia.org/files/UzuegbunamMeritsAmicusBriefACLU.pdf

    We do not often – to my knowledge – see these public interest law firms on the same side of an issue.

    Do you view the ACLU and AU as among the, “tiny silos of sycophants” who adhere to “Fox orthodoxy”?

    I guess Bonner’s obvious alleged attempt at an end run of the Establishment Clause isn’t so obvious to me.

    Perhaps in the interest of your “learned opinion,” you could revisit your (narrow?) view of Bonner and his “followers.”

    • Pop – Thanks for the reply. Again, I support Bonner’s efforts to ensure free speech on college campuses. Along with Rep. Bonner, I believe that many schools have trampled upon 1st Amendment free speech rights in their over-zealous attempts to protect against the 1st Amendment establishment of religion clause.

      The irony here is that this provincial politician would open up so many avenues of speech when he has a decided history of ignoring anything that even hints of progressive thought. He and his Fox cohort don’t exactly spend in inordinate amount of time in the library. He will be the first to condemn some LGBT or socialist that uses the bill he is trying to pass. That obvious irony cannot possibly escape you.

  2. I certainly support any actions that broaden free speech rights. Obviously, Rep. Bonner’s legislation is merely an end run around the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause, hardly an extension to a thoughtful exchange of ideas.

    The irony is that Bonner and his followers so diligently spurn the universe of thought, research, science, and learned opinion for tiny silos of sycophants, immune from even the slightest divergence from Fox orthodoxy.

    As usual, truth is stranger than fiction!

  3. I don’t know how this will all end up, but students don’t want to be hassled by fellow students who promote causes. People do have a right to be left alone. There may be a time and place for free speech, but it’s not all the time and everywhere. Street preachers who hassle people in or near MARTA stations contribute to a dislike of public transportation because they are, quite simply, a nuisance. Campuses are places for study and reflection, much of the time, and speech in class needs to be relevant and limited to the subject at hand. Travel between classrooms and school buildings should not be a source of unwanted exposure to delusional motor mouths, with or without a guitar. Freedom from speech is much to be desired much of the time, wouldn’t you agree?