Along with most Americans, we are deeply troubled by the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents here in the United States and abroad. That is why we feel it necessary to add our voices in support of a bill in the S.C. Legislature, H.3643, that directly addresses the rise of anti-Jewish hate and bias.
We believe that this bill, sponsored by Rep. Alan Clemmons, along with 114 of the 121 seated members of the House, provides a necessary and measured response to the recurrence of anti-Jewish hate in our state and, specifically, on our campuses.
This bill will ensure our state universities’ use of important, internationally recognized tools to ascertain the intent of people who are accused of certain conduct that violates the law or university policies.
We must take a strong stand against anti-Semitism, and we are proud that South Carolina is taking a leading role in this effort.
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Whether it is in the United Nations, the capitals of Europe, the Middle East or here in the United States, Jewish communities around the world are reeling from the growing presence of anti-Semitism.
The recent report from the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry found that incidents of anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses have risen by 45 percent in the past year.
Researchers at Trinity College and Brandeis University have found that more than half of Jewish students reported experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism in 2014 and 2015. Anti-Semitic incidents at universities increased by 45 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to an AMCHA Initiative study.
Clemmons: How SC can fight anti-Semitism
We recognize that H.3643 is a step in the right direction and encourage the members of South Carolina’s Senate to quickly pass this important legislation.
The bill’s simple requirement, that universities use the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, will help our state immeasurably in countering bigoted attitudes on our college campuses.
We are proud to note that our state would be adopting the same definition that has already been adopted by numerous international governmental bodies, including, most recently, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization comprised of 31 member nations.
When we introduced the federal version of this bill — The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act — in December, it passed the Senate unanimously. Though the House did not have the chance to vote on their companion bill before the legislative session ended, the bill is likely going to be reintroduced in the coming weeks.
We are pleased that H.3643 was carefully drafted along the same lines of our own bill in order to ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Despite some misrepresentations about the bill’s function and intent, we note that H.3643 does not restrict any speech whatsoever.
Despite some misrepresentations about the bill’s function and intent, we note that H.3643 does not restrict any speech whatsoever. Rather, on those occasions when the actions of anti-Jewish activists harm Jewish students, the bill would encourage universities to use a widely established definition to evaluate the perpetrators’ intent.
The language that may be anti-Semitic must be objectively examined as part of an effort to determine whether the anti-Semitic activity is severe, persistent or pervasive enough to constitute an actionable hostile environment under Title VI. It is crucial that South Carolina and its universities have the tools to properly identify anti-Semitism.
We are pleased to point to South Carolina’s proactive nature when it came to the passage of the nation’s first anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions law (H.3583) in 2015. The success of that bill was, in no small part, thanks to the excellent work of Rep. Clemmons.
After the passage of H.3583, many other states followed suit, without a single First Amendment challenge having been filed. We hope that now, due to the good work of that same representative, South Carolina may shortly take national leadership as the first state to adopt its own anti-Semitism awareness act. We expect other states will follow our lead.
We hope that our Legislature will pass H.3643, for the protection of all S.C. students, and to ensure that South Carolina continues to lead the way in the fight for equal rights for all of its citizens under the law.
Mr. Graham and Mr. Scott represent South Carolina in the U.S. Senate. Contact them at lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-senator-graham and scott.senate.gov/contact/email-me.