Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, joined Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Doug Collins (R-GA), along with Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to introduce bipartisan legislation to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism in schools and on college campuses across the nation. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act directs the Department of Education (DOE) to use a widely-accepted definition of anti-Semitism when determining if incidents of harassment or discrimination that are potentially in violation of U.S. anti-discrimination law were motivated by anti-Semitism.
According to recent reports, anti-Semitic attacks on college campuses have risen sharply in recent years. Unfortunately, the Department lacks firm guidance on how to define anti-Semitism. By codifying the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, this legislation will enable the DOE to protect students from the most insidious and modern forms of anti-Semitism.
This legislation would not diminish or infringe upon any individual's First Amendment rights or school's academic freedom. Rather, it provides the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights with a guideline for determining whether cases that already rise to the level of actionable discrimination were motivated by anti-Jewish animus.
Text of the legislation can be accessed here. A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here.
"With the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination on college campuses, the Department of Education must have all the tools it needs to identify harassment and discrimination of any kind," said Rep. Nadler, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. "All students deserve to feel safe and secure on their college campus no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. The informational guidelines provided for in this legislation will help the Department by providing a deeper understanding of the full scope of potential discrimination and harassment against Jewish students."
"There is no place for anti-Semitism or religious discrimination on our college campuses," said Rep. Roskam. "Across the nation, we're witnessing a significant rise in Jewish students being targeted and harassed for no reason other than their identity. In Illinois, anti-Semitic incidents have nearly doubled in recent years. With numerous incidences of anti-Semitic vandalism, propaganda and cases of harassment surfacing across Illinois' universities, we must stand together against hate. This legislation would ensure that the Department of Education is properly able to identify all forms of anti-Semitic incidences when investigating illegal discrimination on campus. Like all other students, Jewish students have the right to feel safe on campus. With this legislation, Congress can play an important role in this effort."
"I've heard far too many stories from Jewish students of the anti-Semitism they face in schools and on college campuses every day," Rep. Deutch said. "Jewish students, like students of any religion, should not live in fear of attacks because of their religion. They shouldn't have to fear wearing Judaic symbols or expressing their support for Israel. As we work to combat all forms of discrimination and hate, Congress must act to protect Jewish students on campus, and this legislation would help the Education Department stem this troubling trend."
"As many college campuses continue to be sites of anti-Semitic harassment, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act offers the Department of Education an effective tool for investigating whether prohibited bigoted actions have become a barrier to learning. This bill upholds First Amendment freedoms and supports students' access to higher learning free from anti-Semitic abuse, and I thank Congressman Roskam for introducing this important legislation," said Rep. Collins.
"With recent reports showing a significant increase in anti-Semitism on college campuses across America, it is essential that the Department of Education has a clear and concise definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism," Senator Scott said. "I want to thank our bipartisan group of colleagues for working across the aisle on this important bill to give the Department of Education an important tool in the fight against hatred, harassment and discrimination."
"The rise of religiously-motivated hate crimes and religious discrimination across our country is unacceptable," Senator Casey said. "This legislation will help the Department of Education investigate incidents of discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism in our schools, which should be safe environments for students from all backgrounds. I'm proud to work on this bipartisan legislation, which aims to combat anti-Semitism while preserving freedom of speech."