update deskSchools & Higher Education

Banned SJP chapters at two Florida universities sue schools, state officials

The Hamas-supporting student groups claim a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The main library at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Credit: James E. Scholz via Wikimedia Commons.
The main library at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Credit: James E. Scholz via Wikimedia Commons.

The Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida have taken legal action in response to an order issued by state Gov. Ron DeSantis to shutter them.

Claiming the decision breached their First Amendment rights, the chapters’ suit states that “the deactivation order advances unsubstantiated claims that Florida’s SJP chapters have violated the state’s material support for terrorism statute” and that “governors cannot shut down lawful and peaceful student groups because of the views they express. The First Amendment forbids it.”

A spokesperson for DeSantis disagreed.

“Groups that claim to be part of a foreign terrorist movement have no place on our university campuses,” Julia Friedland, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, told JNS. “The governor was right to disband a group that provides material support to a terrorist organization.”

Jacob Baime, CEO of the Israel on Campus Coalition, supported the decision to ban SJP and said the group’s response to the Oct. 7 terror attacks “reveals a violent, genocidal ideology spreading on campus.”

He called on schools to “act decisively to protect all students. SJP chapters openly supporting Hamas’s attacks cross the line from free speech to incitement and endorsing terrorism.”

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