NATIONAL NEWS

Florida faces a second lawsuit over its effort to disband pro-Palestinian student groups

Nov 21, 2023, 11:08 AM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A second federal lawsuit filed against Florida over its effort to disband pro-Palestinian student groups claims the state is either ignoring or doesn’t understand First Amendment rights to free speech.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is representing the University of South Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, claiming state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues’ order to disband the groups because of a statement made by a national group is unconstitutional.

“Neither the state of Florida nor its state colleges and universities are enclaves immune from the requirements and protections of the First Amendment,” the suit filed Tuesday reads. “But once again events suggest that Defendants either don’t know that or reject it.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar lawsuit last week representing a University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

As Israel’s attacks on Gaza have intensified, some college students have expressed solidarity with Palestinians, resulting in swift censure from some Jewish academics and even some prospective employers.

Rodrigues claimed when he issued his order last month that Florida university chapters of the group were violating state law by offering support to a terrorist organization.

The lawsuit said the USF group isn’t affiliated with the national group, doesn’t have financial ties to it and doesn’t follow its direction.

Rodrigues has since backed off the order while consulting lawyers to see how the state can proceed and whether it can force the groups to pledge to reject violence and Hamas and to follow the law.

Asked what action Rodrigues or the Board of Governors has taken since Rodrigues ordered universities to disband the groups, board spokesperson Tony Lee declined to answer. Lee also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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Florida faces a second lawsuit over its effort to disband pro-Palestinian student groups