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FIRE urges Senate to oppose the Antisemitism Awareness Act

H.R. 6090 will stifle free speech on college campuses and unconstitutionally restrict expression protected by the First Amendment. 
Red background with text reading, "Tell your senators: Defend free speech. Oppose HR 6090."

To ensure students have equal access to educational opportunities, all schools covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act — public and private — are required to investigate and prohibit anti-Semitic discrimination in their programs. The Department of Education has the statutory authority to investigate and penalize schools for failure to comply with this requirement. 

When deciding whether anti-Semitic discrimination is occurring on campus, H.R. 6090 requires the Department of Education to use a definition of anti-Semitism that is vague, overbroad, and includes criticism of Israeli government policy. Mandating this definition of anti-Semitism would not help schools address anti-Semitic discrimination, but it would pressure institutions to investigate and censor statements that fall under the definition — even when those statements are protected by the First Amendment.

Examples of anti-Semitism set forth in the definition include “[a]pplying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” and “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” 

The First Amendment does not allow Congress to dictate the permissible criticism of any country. 

Known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, it was originally drafted solely for the purpose of collecting data on anti-Semitism in Europe. Its principal author stated that it should not be adopted for use in Title VI investigations or to punish campus expression.

Members of Congress have ample alternatives to help address anti-Semitic discrimination on campus. FIRE has long supported efforts to constitutionally and effectively address anti-Semitic discrimination on college campuses by passing legislation to: 

  • Prohibit harassment based on religion.
  • Confirm that Title VI prohibits discrimination based on ethnic stereotypes.
  • Codify the Supreme Court’s definition of discriminatory harassment. 

These options would better address anti-Semitic harassment and would do so without suppressing free speech. 

FIRE urges senators to consider these alternatives and oppose the Antisemitism Awareness Act.

Are you concerned about the Antisemitism Awareness Act and want to get involved? Take action here!

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