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Bill of the Day: Rep. Shanks seeks...

Bill of the Day: Rep. Shanks seeks college campus free speech protections with FORUM Act

By: Frank Corder - January 5, 2022

Y’all Politics brings you a Bill of the Day from the Mississippi Legislature that just may pique your interest.

Freedom of speech on college campuses has been a hotly debated topic across the nation over the past few years. Certain university officials have attempted to stifle conservative-minded voices and restrict right-leaning organizations from engaging in public discourse on higher education campuses.

State Rep. Fred Shanks (R) has authored a bill that would make sure the playing field is level in Mississippi.

HB 164, titled the “Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act,” seeks to prohibit Mississippi institutions of higher learning from denying religious, political or ideological student organizations a benefit or privilege available to another student organization, or otherwise discriminate against such an organization based on its expression.

The bill would require Mississippi colleges and universities to develop and make available materials explaining the policy to its campus staff and students. It further requires those institutions to submit an annual report detailing the course of action taken to implement and comply with this policy.

“Expressive activities protected under the provisions of this act include, but are not limited to, any lawful verbal, written, audio-visual or electronic means by which individuals may communicate ideas to one another, including all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speeches and guest speakers, distribution of literature, carrying signs and circulating petitions,” the bill states.

Rep. Shanks’ bill outlines the penalties for colleges and universities that violate this Act, noting that a person or student organization may file a lawsuit within a year of the offense against that state institution of higher learning and its employees acting in their official capacities, responsible for the violation and seek appropriate relief, including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, monetary damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.

“If a court should find a violation of this act, it shall issue an award of at least Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00),” the bill states. Any person or student organization aggrieved by a violation of this act may assert such violation as a defense or counter claim in any disciplinary action or in any civil or administrative proceedings brought against such student or student organization. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to limit any other remedies available to any person or student organization.”

You can read the full version of HB 164 here.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father.