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Kentucky passes legislation to protect free speech on campus

Law prohibits free speech zones, charging speaker fees

Kentucky passed a law protecting the freedom of speech on public campuses yesterday, joining a growing number of states taking action to protect the rights of students in their states.

The law prohibits the use of “free speech zones” on campus, opening all outdoor areas to free speech. It prohibits schools from disinviting speakers “invited by a student, student organization, or faculty member because the speaker’s anticipated speech may be considered offensive, unwise, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, or radical by students, faculty, administrators, government officials, or members of the public.”

The law also protects students who are invited to speak at “official events.” It ensures that their prepared remarks “are not altered before delivery, except in a viewpoint-neutral manner, unless requested by the student.”

It does, however, prohibit student speakers from engaging “in speech that is obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent,” and it requires schools to communicate that students’ views are their own when they “could be reasonably interpreted by an observer as sponsored or affirmed by the university.”

It also prevents schools from charging fees of students based on the views of speakers they invite. Three universities – the University of Kentucky, Morehead State University, and Murray State University – will be affected by the law.

“This legislation champions the rights of students across the political spectrum to participate in the quintessential ‘marketplace of ideas’ that campuses of higher education are intended to provide,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Joe Cohn said in a press release. “Because HB 254 is now law, students at public institutions throughout Kentucky have a powerful new tool to combat censorship on campus.”

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Savannah Maddox in the House and Sen. Will Schroder in the Senate.

Read the full language of the bill.

MORE: South Dakota passes intellectual diversity bill

IMAGE: Christopher Penler / Shutterstock.com

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