Court Dumps Florida's 'Positively Dystopian' 'Stop WOKE' Law

Administration 'reviewing all options' after court rejection
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2024 6:43 AM CST
Florida's 'Stop WOKE' Law Deemed 'Positively Dystopian'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a press conference at the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District headquarters at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.   (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

A court has ruled that one of the signature laws of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is unlawful. A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, also known as the Individual Freedom Act, "exceeds the bounds of the First Amendment." Passed in 2022, the Stop WOKE Act restricts how schools and private companies can teach diversity and inclusion, and prohibits them from making a person "feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" due to their race, color, sex, or national origin. Several businesses challenged the law, saying it kept them from speaking with employees "on important societal matters" and "ideas essential for improving their workplaces," per Politico.

Tallahassee US District Judge Mark Walker previously blocked some provisions in the law, calling it "positively dystopian." "Under this Act, professors enjoy 'academic freedom' so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves," he wrote, per NBC News. A three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling Monday, rejecting "this latest attempt to control speech by recharacterizing it as conduct." "By limiting its restrictions to a list of ideas designated as offensive, the Act targets speech based on its content," wrote Judge Britt C. Grant, per Politico. "And by barring only speech that endorses any of those ideas, it penalizes certain viewpoints—the greatest First Amendment sin."

"Banning speech on a wide variety of political topics is bad; banning speech on a wide variety of political viewpoints is worse," continued Grant, who was joined by Judges Charles Wilson and Andrew Brasher, per the Washington Post. The group suing the state, Protect Democracy, called it a "major victory for free speech in the workplace." But DeSantis' press secretary suggested this would not be the last word. "We disagree with the Court's opinion that employers can require employees to be taught—as a condition of employment—that one race is morally superior to another race," said Jeremy Redfern, per Politico. "The First Amendment protects no such thing." The administration added the state would be "reviewing all options on appeal going forward." (More Florida stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.