Enacted Campus Free Speech Statutes – Alabama

In 2019, Alabama enacted HB 498, now Ala. Code § 16-68-3. 

HB 498 Summary

HB 498 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that requires public institutions of higher education in Alabama to adopt policies consistent with the University of Chicago’s Free Speech Policy Statement and eliminate several common forms of speech codes including overbroad anti-harassment policies and policies that quarantine speech to misleadingly labeled “free speech zones.” 

Key Provisions

  • Requires public institutions to adopt policies consistent with the University of Chicago’s Free Speech Policy Statement;
  • Prohibits public institutions from quarantining speech with “free speech zones;”
  • Defines student-on-student harassment in a way that is consistent with the definition provided by the Supreme Court of the United States in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education;
  • Bars institutions from rescinding invitations to speakers invited by students or faculty;
  • Requires institutions to use content neutral criteria for assessing security fees on events;
  • Prohibits institutions from discriminating against belief-based student organizations by preventing them from requiring leaders or members of the organization affirm and adhere to an organization’s sincerely held beliefs or statement of principles;
  • Encourages institutions to try to remain neutral on controversial issues, while forbidding institutions from compelling students, faculty, or staff from expressing particular views on those issues;
  • Requires First Amendment trainings as part of new student orientation; and
  • Creates a cause of action allowing the Alabama Attorney General or an aggrieved party to file a lawsuit to enforce their rights under the statute.

FIRE Commentary

Alabama governor signs bill into law to better protect student and faculty free speech rights