A controversial anti-Semitism bill could become law this year, despite objections from pro-Palestine groups who say it could chill free speech on college campuses.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, told The State newspaper he will try to pull the bill, which passed the House by a 103-3 vote last month, out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote next week.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster would sign the bill into law if it passes the Senate, his office confirmed Thursday.
OK’d by a Senate panel Thursday, the bill would require S.C. colleges to use a U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism when investigating alleged civil rights violations on campus. Critics speaking Thursday on the bill said that definition is overly broad and vague, and conflates criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitic speech.
“Thoughtful critique of Israeli government policy is not anti-Semitism,” said Joshua Cooper, a Jewish math professor at the University of South Carolina, adding that the bill would lead to violations of academic freedom and 1st Amendment rights.
The Senate panel voted unanimously to advance the bill despite hearing concerns of critics.
“This body in recent years has done yeoman’s work in pushing back on bigotry of all shapes and forms,” said state Rep. Alan Clemmons, the Horry Republican who sponsored the bill. “Today we see the largest rise of bigotry being directed toward the Jewish in this country, particularly on college campuses. We are addressing a need.”