A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama faced backlash this week for issuing a preliminary injunction against a law signed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that targets woke indoctrination in higher education.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued the ruling Thursday against the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act,” officially dubbed the Individual Freedom Act. The judge’s move means that the law cannot be enforced on college campuses for now.
“The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints,” Walker wrote in his order. “Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian.”
Walker claimed that “our professors are critical to a healthy democracy” and referred to them as “priests of democracy” who “shed light on challenging ideas.”
Christopher J. Scalia, the son of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, responded to Walker’s sentence referring to professors being the “priests of democracy” by saying, “That whole sentence is embarrassing.”
“We need to start getting rid of these repulsive judges — or giving them IQ tests,” political commentator David Reaboi tweeted. “This clown is dumber than dirt.”
“Whatever happened to separation of church and state,” attorney Will Chamberlain tweeted. “If professors are ‘priests of democracy’ then universities are churches, and must do without all government funding.”
“Ah yes, the American university, a flourishing marketplace of ideas,” law professor Adrian Vermeule tweeted sarcastically. “‘Priests of democracy’ is correct, although not in the sense the judge intended.”
The Daily Signal’s Jarrett Stepman tweeted, “‘Priests of democracy.’ The left actually wants to publicly fund religion, as long as it’s their religion.”
The law, which the Florida legislature passed in March, prohibits public K-12 schools and universities from teaching eight concepts that constitute “discrimination” and lets parents sue if their children are taught those concepts. It also targets employers who require their workers to partake in woke trainings.
The banned concepts include that a person is “inherently” racist or sexist “whether consciously or unconsciously” due to his race or sex, that a person “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt” for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, and that virtues like hard work, fairness, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist.
The act enhances enforcement of the Florida education board’s June decision to ban public schools from teaching Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project, which reframes American history with slavery at the center.
DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have touted the law, saying it will prevent both students and employees in Florida from harmful, woke classes and trainings.
“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is Critical Race Theory,” DeSantis said in December when announcing the bill. “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other.”
DeSantis added at the time that Florida must protect workers against the “hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired ‘training’ and indoctrination.”
DeSantis’ office said they “strongly disagree” with Thursday’s ruling and plan to appeal it.
“This recent ruling included several victories for our legal team. We expect many more and ultimately to prevail in this litigation,” Bryan Griffin, press secretary for DeSantis’ office, said in a statement to The Daily Wire.
“The Stop W.O.K.E. Act protects the open exchange of ideas by prohibiting teachers or employers who hold agency over others from forcing discriminatory concepts on students as part of classroom instruction or on employees as a condition of maintaining employment. An ‘open-minded and critical’ environment necessitates that one is free from discrimination,” Griffin said.
Mairead Elordi contributed to this report.