Tennessee assembly advancing bills against antisemitism

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The state legislature aims to greater define what constitutes antisemitism so as to help determine whether an investigation by state authorities needs to be conducted.

By JEREMY SHARON   FEBRUARY 16, 2020 19:42

Legislation is currently being advanced through the Tennessee state legislature to better define what constitutes antisemitism, so as to help determine whether an investigation by state authorities needs to be conducted.The bills, currently working their way through both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, come in the wake of an executive order issued by US President Donald Trump last year that directed the Justice Department and the Education Department to address discrimination cases against Jews under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.Read More Related Articles

Both bills were introduced to the bicameral General Assembly at the beginning of February, have passed the requisite preliminary steps and were referred to the appropriate committees last week.The order was largely designed to prevent federal funds and resources being used for antisemitic events on college campuses, including some anti-Zionist events if they fall foul of the definition of antisemitism Trump’s measure adopted, which is the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Trump’s executive order generated fierce debate, with critics arguing that some of the IHRA’s stipulations, such as that “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is antisemitic, could stymie free speech on college campuses and could contravene the First Amendment.

The legislation in Tennessee adopts the federal definition of antisemitism as laid out by the State Department’s definition, which is largely based on IHRA’s antisemitism definition.The bill is being advanced by Dolores Gresham, Tennessee state senator and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Mark White, chairman of the House Education Committee.

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