MAGA Republicans in Florida Criminalize Free Speech in Controversial New Bill
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA – Republican members of Florida’s House of Representatives Mike Caruso and Randy Fine, who is Jewish, have proposed controversial new legislation that would criminalize certain forms of constitutionally-protected speech as “hate” crimes.
The new bill, HB 269, would make all of the following 3rd class felonies:
- Any person distributing flyers involving materials that have religious or ethnic animus
- Any person stalking, harassing or interfering with someone based on their religious or ethnic heritage will now be commenting a 3rd-degree felony
- Any person who willfully and maliciously defaces, injures or damages a religious cemetery, memorial, religious school or community or public or private property with a religious or ethnic animus will now be committing a 3rd-degree felony
- Any person who projects an image of religious or ethnic animus, indoors or outdoors, without permission, written permission from the owner of the property, will be commenting a 3rd-degree felony
- Any person who willfully interrupts or disrupts, disturbs any religious school or religious service with a pretense of ethnic or religious animus will be commenting a 3rd-degree felon
The legislation appears to be in direct response to recent viral activism by NSF (National Socialists Florida) and the GDL (Goyim Defense League).
Speaking at the press conference announcing the bill, co-sponsor of the bill Mike Caruso asserted:
“If we don’t do something now, then soon we will just be 1933 Nazi Germany here all over again.”
1933 Nazi Germany was the outcome of a fair and open election process in which the Nazi Party became the democratically-elected winner of statewide multi-party elections which resulted in Adolf Hitler becoming the chancellor of Germany. As a result, Jews presiding over post-WWII denazification banned all multi-party elections in Germany until 1990.
Today, not much has changed. Without citing specific verbiage in the First Amendment to support his claim, Jewish Florida State Rep. Randy Fine said:
“You have the right to be an idiot in the United States. We have the First Amendment; it doesn’t mean you have the right to be an idiot and exercise the First Amendment.”
Caruso went on to invent special rights for Jews that simply don’t exist in the context of protected speech:
“They deserve and have the right towards quiet enjoyment in their communities and the ability to practice their Jewish faith without reprisal, without fear of harm.”
Such cavalier and reckless statements made by lawmakers have been repeatedly rejected for decades in at least six million pages of U.S. case law and contradicted by numerous public statements made by prominent political leaders declaring that the First Amendment does, in fact, give you the right to be an idiot.
Legislative Guilt by Association
The structure of the bill is, on its face, problematic. The provisions intended to censor protected speech have been padded with provisions that are obvious and long-accepted criminal acts such as physically defacing or damaging private property, stalking, harassment, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace.
By effectively rigging their legislation in this way, Caruso and Fine hope that most people are too uninformed to realize that there is a difference between destroying a cemetery and having the right to speak freely about politics including those that include insular racially-motivated groups that have attained disproportionate political power. Voters are expected to associate negative emotions over existing crimes for which lawmakers can provide no recent examples with new non-crimes that are protected by the First Amendment. Somehow Floridians would then agree to a) enhancing the penalties for committing actions that are considered actual crimes and b) creating new penalties for things that make powerful people feel bad, but aren’t illegal, and cannot be infringed upon.
The new law also criminalizes “non-hate” speech that is purportedly outside the bounds of protected speech, but only as a misdemeanor. The distinction being made between hate and non-hate speech facially discriminates against political speech by classifying it as “hate” speech and would thus not survive First Amendment scrutiny.
This is How They MAGA
Randy Fine is a Jewish MAGA Republican and former Harrah’s gambling executive who is known for his outspoken support for similarly unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation and has made derogatory remarks and calls for violence against Palestinian children on his Facebook page, celebrating war crimes such as the bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Jewish Florida Rep. Randy Fine faced significant blowback for his racially-motivated calls for violence on Facebook in 2021.
Mike Caruso was elected to the Florida House in 2018 on an explicitly pro-Trump campaign based around being “tough on crime,” arresting opioid users and dealers, and stating that illegal immigrants are a “strain on our economy.” Caruso wouldn’t have won without the support of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that has given former President Donald Trump unwavering support, is comprised of homosexual conservatives that got its namesake from the long-standing and probable rumor that Abraham Lincoln, a founding father of the Republican Party, was a homosexual.
HB 269 Faces an Unlikely Path Forward
Controversial bills like this aren’t new in Florida and they typically do not survive intact if they ever do become law. In 2019, Mike Caruso and Randy Fine proposed a bill, HB 741, that would have categorized any criticism of Israel in Florida public schools as anti-semitism. The original bill banned denying the Holocaust and criticism of the Israeli state. “Discrimination,” however, would also include government criticism which is protected speech under the First Amendment. Under the proposed law, Florida residents could sue or otherwise file complaints against teachers or administrators who criticize the Israeli state.
In the end, Ron DeSantis signed a stripped-down version of the bill while he was in Israel that defined anti-semitism and added religion as a protected class. The bill was devoid of any of its original language centered on curbing criticism of Israel, it made clear such criticism was allowed and is “similar to criticism toward any other country.”
“Most Pro-Israel Governor in America” Ron DeSantis and Randy Fine sign Florida anti-semitism law in Israel.
The Florida ACLU threaded the needle in opposition to HB 741:
“Addressing anti-Semitism and all forms of religious discrimination is crucial, particularly given the rise of recent attacks and hateful rhetoric, but it does not justify silencing constitutionally protected speech. All Floridians have the right to free speech without the threat of government interference. Similarly, all Floridians have the right not be discriminated against based on their actual or perceived religion. While we applaud efforts to add ‘religion’ as a protected category from discrimination in our schools, we oppose any provisions that infringe on the First Amendment rights of Floridians. The ACLU of Florida will continue to monitor the progress of this bill to ensure our First Amendment rights remain intact.“
Under Florida’s unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation, Caruso and Fine attempted to prevent Lorde from performing in Miami and Tampa after she canceled a concert in Tel Aviv, but were unsuccessful.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has since tried to file similar BDS restrictions at the federal level. In response, the ACLU said Rubio was trying to violate the First Amendment. The ACLU and other civil rights groups have repeatedly challenged anti-BDS legislation and similar crackdowns judicially, and time and again federal courts have struck down anti-BDS rules for violating the First Amendment.
While striking down these laws in Kansas and Arizona represents significant progress, there are still unconstitutional anti-BDS laws in Georgia, Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas, Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Florida, Maryland, and Wisconsin. All are egregious violations of the First Amendment, and like HB 269, should be struck down.
HB 269 Legislator Contact Information
2539 Palm Bay Road Northeast
Palm Bay, FL 32905-3534
Phone: (321) 409-2017
402 South Monroe Street
214 House Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Phone: (850) 717-5033
4400 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33431-5183
Phone: (561) 750-2396
402 South Monroe Street
200 House Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Phone: (850) 717-5089