Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Passes Congress



The absolute anarchy of the college campus protests has the public and politicians wondering what can be done about these universities that foster hatred for Jews, Israel, America, and Western Civilization. Obviously, people are allowed to say what they want, and are allowed to protest, but that does not mean that illegal activities such as calls for violence, vandalism, and trespassing are allowed. It also does not mean that the taxpayer must subsidize what is being taught at these colleges. The path towards a solution led the House of Representatives to pass the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.”

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is a piece of legislation passed by the GOP-led House, aimed at defining and addressing anti-Semitism, particularly within educational institutions. This is an expansion of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that “that no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

President Trump in 2019 made a similar move to protect Jews on campus under Title VI. He declared, rightly, that Judaism is a nation, which means that Jews fall under the “national origin” category. This was necessary because religion is not a protected class. This legislation expands on that by using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition for anti-Semitism in order to protect students and, if necessary, provide the legal predicate to defund universities that are in violation of the Title VI.

The intention behind the passage of this legislation is obviously very good. Representative Mike Lawler of New York, who introduced the legislation in October 2023, then said, “The amount of anti-Semitism we consistently see on college campuses is disturbing and unacceptable. Colleges and universities have long been breeding grounds of anti-Semitism, and the recent Hamas attack has taken it to the next level. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that we crack down on anti-Semitic hate within our own country.” This is even more true today than when he said it seven months ago.

Congressman Anthony D’Esposito, who co-sponsored the bill and represents more Orthodox Jews than any other Member of the House, said, “The startling rise in anti-Semitic activity in recent times calls for a strong congressional response… Considering anti-Semitic protestors’ recent aggressive actions on college campuses across the country, it is vitally important to further codify protections for Jewish Americans and ensure that those who peddle in anti-Semitism are not allowed to spread their evil ideology with ease.”

The intentions may have been good and well-placed, but there are also a lot of problems with this bill. As usual, those who speak against it divide into multiple camps. The two main ones are those who believe this violates free speech and the First Amendment, and those who think that Jews should not be protected under Civil Rights law.

For those who claim that this would be a violation of Free Speech, there must be some ideological consistency. Title VI already heavily infringes on Free Speech principles. There is no reason under a purist interpretation of the First Amendment why it would be acceptable to discriminate against people on the basis of religion but not of race or national origin. One being an “immutable characteristic” while the other is seen as “interchangeable” is completely irrelevant to anyone’s right to be a complete jerk and be discriminatory.

A subsection of the free speech crowd is that the IHRA definition is too broad. This is also a legitimate concern. The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is a good guideline but codifying it into law seems too simplistic. It also allows people on the Right who claim that Christianity is under attack (sometimes correctly) to claim that it is now illegal to teach the New Testament because claims of “Jews killing Jesus” was used as an example. Obviously, this is not the intent of the legislation, but a problem that should have been avoided.

Then there’s the “Jews don’t deserve protection” crowd. Obviously, this crowd uses the “free speech” arguments because it’s kind of embarrassing to publicly claim that they just hate Jews. It seems to be the same people who regularly hate Jews, however. You can tell who these people are because they want the frat boys on college campuses who are protecting the American flag and yelling at the protesters to be punished. They have no problem with discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or national origin – as long as it’s white men from America.

This legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law, and even if it does, that doesn’t mean that it will be enforced. Enforcement of this law means that the federal government needs to have the will to actually remove billions of dollars in funding to these universities. The problem is that the federal bureaucracy is staffed up with the graduates of these institutions and agrees with the lessons taught there. It would be nearly impossible, without exceptionally strong leadership, to make any meaningful changes at that level. Which means that despite this legislation, for the foreseeable future, the Jews on college campuses are on their own.

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