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Florida Appeals Court Blocks Part of ‘Stop WOKE Act,’ Calling it a ‘First Amendment Sin’

Credits: Creative Loafing Tampa Bay

A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that part of Florida’s anti-woke” law infringes on employers’ free speech rights. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the government cannot favor some viewpoints over others without inviting First Amendment scrutiny.

The Individual Freedom Act, known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, aimed to prevent teachings or mandatory workplace activities suggesting privilege or oppression based on race, color, sex, or national origin.

However, the court found that the Act targeted speech based on its content and penalized certain viewpoints, violating the First Amendment.

‘Stop WOKE Act’ Scheme (Credits: CNN)

The term “woke” has become highly polarizing, with some using it to describe awareness of history, oppression, and social justice, while others use it pejoratively to denounce progressive action and teachings about race.

The challenge to the “Stop WOKE Act” was brought by two Florida-based employers represented by Protect Democracy, a “nonpartisan, anti-authoritarianism group.” They sought to require diversity and inclusion training for staff and a consultant.

The federal appeals court’s decision upholds a federal judge’s ruling from August 2022, which blocked parts of the law dealing with corporate training, stating it discriminated based on viewpoint in violation of the First Amendment and was impermissibly vague.

Opponents of the Act are fighting it on multiple fronts, including its effects on K-12 schools, higher education, and employers. A separate federal appeals court ruling last year upheld a temporary block on part of the law restricting teachings in Florida’s public colleges and universities. The appeal of this ruling is ongoing.

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