A Florida law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that restricts the implentation of Critical Race Theory and practices in classrooms and businesses is under attack by college professors and their students, who claim it is blatantly unconstitutional.
Known as the “Stop WOKE” act, the law targets the heart of the ideology exemplified by Critical Race Theory: That white supremacy is systemic in every single U.S. institution and perpetuates white dominance in society, business, and education.
The law prohibits teaching children or implementing business practices that claim members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others.
It also bars teaching children that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that racial discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court claims the law will “stifle widespread demands to discuss, study and address systemic inequalities” underscored by the national discussion of race following the murder of the Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020.
Progressives claim Critical Race Theory is an academic inquiry into truth and history.
Conservatives say it is a racist imposition of a divisive ideology stemming from Marxism that assigns people into the categories of oppressor and oppressed based only on their race.
The latest lawsuit joins two others already pending in Tallahassee federal court. Like the professors, a group of K-12 teachers and a student claim the law violates the Constitution’s protections of free expression, academic freedom, and access to information in public schools.
A third lawsuit was brought by private entities, Clearwater-based Honeyfund.com and others, claiming their free speech rights are curtailed because the law infringes on company training programs based on critical race theory. Companies with 15 or more employees could face civil lawsuits over such practices.
“The Stop WOKE Act aims to forward the government’s preferred narrative of history and society and to render illegal speech that challenges that narrative,” the lawsuit says.
All of the lawsuits are in various stages in the legal process and seek to have the Stop WOKE act declared unconstitutional.
DeSantis has expressed confidence that any losses at the lower court level are likely to be reversed by appeals courts that are generally more conservative.
DeSantis is running for reelection as governor this year and is widely viewed as a contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. He has made cultural issues a cornerstone of his administration, particularly snuffing out unpopular “woke” entities and philosophies.
“What you see now with the rise of this woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and to delegitimize our institutions and I view the wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said in a December 2021 speech. “They really want to tear at the fabric of our society.”
Another example of this is DeSantis’ effort to punish Walt Disney World for the company’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law that limits transgender instructions to children in schools.
The governor pushed the Legislature to end Disney World’s special independent district that essentially enabled it to run its own private government. That law doesn’t take full effect until June 2023 but has already been challenged in court.
Other lawsuits have challenged DeSantis priorities such as a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a measure to fine tech companies if they “de-platform” political candidates over their viewpoints, an “anti-riot” law enacting new felonies following nationwide looting and unrest in the summer of 2020, and others.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.