Before leaving Congress, Dave Brat submits bill to protect First Amendment rights on campus

by WorldTribune Staff, December 12, 2018

Rep. Dave Brat has proposed legislation on Dec. 10 to safeguard the First Amendment on college campuses and end forced “free speech zones.”

Rep. Dave Brat

The Student Rights Act would “protect students’ rights to free speech, right of assembly and right of association at public institutions of higher education. It would also protect the rights of political and religious student groups to freely select their leadership and membership,” said a statement from Brat’s office.

Related: The ‘Californication’ of Northern Virginia: Liberal hubs dominating state politics called national trend, November 18, 2018

Brat’s legislation, however, is unlikely to see action in the current lame-duck session of Congress. Additionally, the Virginia Republican lost his re-election bid in last month’s midterms and it is not clear whether anyone else would pick up his proposal when the new Congress convenes in January.

Brat came to national prominence when he defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the district’s 2014 Republican primary. But the once Red state of Virginia has turned increasingly blue with the influx of federal employees into the affluent Northern Virginia suburbs.

Brat’s bill states that students whose rights were violated could sue for monetary damages. It would also ban the practice by some colleges of limiting students’ First Amendment rights to specific space, times or days on campus.

“American universities, once the crucible for our nation’s young citizens, are in danger of becoming an echo chamber where minority views are silenced,” Brat said in a statement.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) consulted with Brat on the legislation.

“FIRE is grateful to Rep. Brat for bringing up the issue and keeping the discussion about the First Amendment problems on campus active,” said Joe Cohn, FIRE’s legislative and policy director.

Last week, the University of California at Berkeley agreed to pay conservative groups $70,000 and alter the university’s major events policy to settle a federal lawsuit the groups launched last year after they accused the school of severe restrictions on guest speakers, according to a Dec. 10 report by The Washington Times.

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