Bill on freedom of expression on campus passes to Governor Reynolds for signature

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Photo of the file: University of Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa –

A bill to strengthen the protection of freedom of speech at public universities and community colleges in Iowa was transferred to the office of the governor, Kim Reynolds, after signing by both chambers of the United States. State, this week.

the proposal requires that the Board of Regents – the governing body of Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa – and the directors of each Community college adopt a policy of freedom of expression on campus.

The bill in part directs the policy to read, inter alia, that the primary function of higher education is "the discovery, enhancement, transmission and dissemination of knowledge through research," 39, teaching, discussion and debate ". The proposal also defines protected activities for students, including demonstrations, speeches and petitions in circulation. It also prohibits institutions from having "zones of freedom of expression" or other rules that would limit activities to a specific area of ​​the campus.

"It prohibits discrimination against religious beliefs and freedom of expression on campuses across the country," said Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville.

The proposal comes in response to a Christian group from the University of Iowa who lost its status of student organization while it was forbidding an openly gay member to be part of his team of management.

The Business Leaders in Christ group filed a lawsuit that led them a victory in court in January. Part of the bill would make it clear in state law that schools can not deprive their student groups of their status if these groups require leaders to "agree and support" the beliefs of the students. organization.

This provision of the bill caused an uproar among Democrats, who condemned it as a way to open the door to discrimination.

"How do we welcome diversity students to one of these groups when we say you can join the group, you can pay your registration fee, but we really do not want to hear from you. We really do not want to let you run for leadership, "said Representative Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo.

Most Democrats have expressed support for other parts of the bill, with the exception of this small portion of the 8-page bill. Representative Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, proposed a change that would eliminate this part of the bill but was eventually canceled.

"The bill as it stands is insulting and discriminatory," said Wolfe.