Federal judge hands DeSantis admin win over ‘Stop WOKE Act’

A federal judge ruled in favor of Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis’ administration was not found to have violated a court order concerning the state’s “Stop WOKE Act,” which bans colleges from promoting critical-race theory lessons and targets other “woken” concepts on higher education campuses.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker wrote that “Although the court would not hesitate compel compliance to its preliminary injunction,” he said on Thursday.

Plaintiffs challenged the law, also known as the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act” (or “Stop WOKE Act”), arguing that DeSantis administration failed to comply with a preliminary order that prohibits enforcement of certain parts of the law.

Plaintiffs objected to a memo from Chris Spencer, Florida’s chief of Office of Policy and Budget. Spencer asked colleges to provide a complete list of all campus programs and staff related to diversity, equity, inclusion and critical-race theory.

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The bill was introduced by DeSants in December 2021, and it was signed into law last April. Schools and corporations are prohibited from “subjecting any student to training or instruction that espouses or advances, inculcates or compels such individual believe certain concepts constitute discrimination based upon race, color, or national origin.”

The law has been challenged by professors and students from public colleges throughout the state in two lawsuits. They claim it violates First Amendment rights and causes confusion among faculty at universities and public colleges, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Walker called the law “positively distopian” in November, and issued a temporary order.

Walker wrote in November that “our professors are crucial to a healthy democracy” and that the State of Florida’s decision about which viewpoints should be illuminated and which should remain hidden has implications for all of us. “If our ‘priests’ of democracy are not allowed to shine light on difficult ideas, democracy will be doomed.”

Leah Watson, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, stated in a statement to Law360 the Dec. 28 memo to universities and public colleges was a “thinly disguised attempt” to circumvent the preliminary injunction.

Watson stated that “we remain concerned about the directive from the Executive Office of the Governor” which he said was a thinly disguised attempt to bypass the restrictions of the preliminary order by eliminating funding for valuable instruction regarding systemic racism, and sexism.

“We will continue monitoring for enforcement of the Stop W.O.K.E. unconstitutional provisions.” “Act and will seek to enforce court’s preliminary order.”

On Thursday, the state responded, arguing that the Dec. 28 memo sent to state colleges was part of the governor’s annual budgeting process. According to the Orlando Sentinel,

According to Law360, the defendants stated that they could not find any authority to support the idea that the provision of the information at issue “enforces” the act or regulation in violation the preliminary injunction.

“The Florida Constitution explicitly authorizes the governor of this information. A lot of the information at issue was already made freely available by universities, either on their websites or in annual budget proposals.”

Fox News Digital was informed by DeSantis’s office that the governor, as chief executive, of the state has every right to inquire how public money is being spent by state entities like state colleges or universities.

The spokesperson said, “In fact that is good government.”