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Missouri Governor Signs Law Banning Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

July 15, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., July 15, 2015—Yesterday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed into law Senate Bill 93, the Campus Free Expression Act (CAFE Act), which prohibits public colleges and universities from restricting student speech to tiny, out-of-the-way “free speech zones.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worked with members of the legislature to ensure this important piece of legislation became law.

One in six public colleges in the United States use free speech zones to restrict student speech,” said FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn. “Thanks to the CAFE Act, and to all of those who fought so hard to get it passed, Missouri is now the second state to statutorily ensure that its public colleges and universities will no longer be among them.”

The CAFE Act was championed by sponsors Senator Ed Emery, Representative Rick Brattin, Representative Mike Moon, and Representative Mike Lair, chairman of the House Select Committee on Education. The bill also enjoyed the support of organizations from across the political and ideological spectrum, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.

With overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the CAFE Act was passed by a unanimous 34–0 vote. It passed the House of Representatives in the legislative session’s final hours on May 15, and was signed by Governor Nixon yesterday.

Missouri and Virginia are now the only states with statutes that prevent public colleges from limiting expressive activities through overly restrictive free speech zones on their campuses. Virginia’s legislation was also supported by FIRE, and was signed into law just last year. FIRE will continue to work with state legislatures to make sure student rights are protected.

“Opening up campuses for free speech is an important step towards ensuring that colleges and universities continue to produce the robust debates and discussions necessary for learning,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “Every state should follow Virginia and Missouri’s lead and pass a CAFE Act, and FIRE stands ready to help them do so.”

FIRE is available to work with Missouri’s public colleges and universities to eliminate unlawful restrictions on free speech in order to achieve compliance with the new law. Administrators may contact FIRE for free assistance, in keeping with FIRE’s charitable mission.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America are described at thefire.org.

CONTACT:

Joe Cohn, Legislative and Policy Director, FIRE: 215-717-3473; joe@thefire.org

Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; katie@thefire.org

Senator Ed Emery, 573-751-2108; Ed.Emery@senate.mo.gov

Representative Rick Brattin,  573-751-3783; Rick.Brattin@house.mo.gov

Representative Mike Moon, 573-751-4077; Mike.Moon@house.mo.gov