A federal judge in Florida partially blocked a law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis designed to limit the discussion of racism and privilege in schools and workplace training.
In a 139-page order issued Thursday, Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Mark Walker excoriated the Republican-led bill and blocked it from taking effect in the state's public universities.
"The State of Florida's decision to choose which viewpoints are worthy of illumination and which must remain in the shadows has implications for us all," Walker wrote. "But the First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark."
The legislation, previously called the Stop W.O.K.E. Act – the acronym standing for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees" – is now known as the Individual Freedom Act. DeSantis signed the bill into law this spring; it initially took effect in July.
The bill prohibits schools and workplaces from any instruction that suggests that any individual, by virtue of their race, color, sex or national origin, "bears responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress" on account of historical acts of racism. The bill also forbids education or training that says individuals are "privileged or oppressed" due to their race or sex...
In his order, Judge Walker, an Obama appointee, opened by reciting the first sentence of 1984, George Orwell's novel about life under a futuristic totalitarian government.
"'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,' and the powers in charge of Florida's public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of 'freedom,'" the judge wrote. "This is positively dystopian."