ACLU of Indiana files lawsuit to block law ‘undermining’ free speech

Kurt Darling
Network Indiana

WEST LAFAYETTE — The ACLU of Indiana is suing the state over a law recently passed that aims to protect free speech on college campuses.

Senate Bill 202, more commonly known as the intellectual diversity law, was authored by State Sen. Spencer Deery with the hope of harboring a more inclusive environment for different viewpoints and ideas on college campuses.

The main goal of the law is to protect conservative speech and viewpoints.

The law reworks the parameters by which college faculty in Indiana get tenure by including a more regular review process of their work every five years. These parameters have to do with how a professor handles “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity,” according to the law.

The idea of the law is to protect both students and teachers from retaliation from school leaders for expressing their viewpoints.

The ACLU, by way of Purdue professor Steven A. Carr, says the bill actually does the opposite.

“A lot of protests are happening in public spaces but my concern is what happens inside the classroom. Do we want public higher education to constantly be looking over their shoulders because we fear someone else is watching what we teach in the classroom,” he said to WISH-TV.

Carr called the classroom a “sacred space” and said that school leaders and politicians should essentially butt out.

The lawsuit claims the law takes things too far in that it could allow debunked theories to be taught in the classroom. Carr used Holocaust Denial as an example. The ACLU thinks the law can silence other professors and threaten diversity because educators who violate the new law could face job loss, pay cuts, or loss of tenure.

“People chill their speech just so they can avoid a potential risk of violation,” said Stevie Pactor, ACLU Indiana staff attorney. “It is part of a broader trend libraries, book banning… I don’t think this is particularly unique to Indiana. It’s a national trend that we’re seeing everywhere.”