TN Student Freedom of Expression Act is no longer ‘informally, the Milo bill’

State Rep. Martin Daniel has dropped use of Milo Yiannopoulos’ name in promoting passage of a college campus “free speech” bill since the Breitbart News columnist  condoned sex between grown men and underage boys, according to The Nashville Scene and The Tennessean.

After a video of Yiannopoulos’ remarks became public, the Conservative Political Action Conference canceled his scheduled speech before the group and his publisher canceled plans to print a book he has written.

When contacted initially on Monday about the controversy Scene reporter Cari Wade Gervin says Daniel, R-Knoxville, told her had “seen some headlines” but hadn’t “really read anything” about the controversy and generally downplayed the past prominent references to Yiannopoulos.

During a press conference (Feb. 9) that featured a number of random speakers, including Fox talking head Scottie Nell Hughes, Daniel proclaimed his legislation is needed in Tennessee after protests over a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California in Berkeley turned partially violent.

“This bill, entitled the ‘Tennessee Student Freedom of Expression Act,’ or, informally, the Milo Bill, will, one, create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression as a fundamental right,” Daniel said at the press conference, shortly before a statement from Yiannopoulos himself was read by another woman in attendance.

From The Tennessean:

On Monday, the East Tennessee lawmaker backtracked on his endorsement of Milo, sending out a series of tweets saying his bill would be known as “the Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, & the MLK JR. bill.”

In an interview, he said he was not familiar with the full extent of the video controversy.

“It seemed appropriate at that time to name it after someone who has been persecuted for freedom of speech,” Daniel said.

As for the apparent name change, Daniel said the bill is bigger than just one person or incident.

“What we want to do is make it clear that this bill is about freedom of speech, not just one person,” he said. “We are going to reference people who have been free speech advocates in the past.”

The bill (HB739) is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.”

Note: Gervin’s report includes a partial transcript of Yiannopoulos’ comments, commentary and a recounting of abusive and obscene tweets sent to her after an earlier posting on the Feb. 9 news conference. A previous post is HERE and a copy of the news release announcing the press conference is below.

News release from state Rep. Martin Daniel

Nashville, Tennessee – February 8, 2017 Representative Martin Daniel (R-18th District) will hold a press conference on Thursday February 9th concerning legislation that has been filed that will protect free speech at Tennessee’s public institutions of higher learning. The conference will occur at 11:00am at Legislative Plaza, Room 31. The bill is entitled the “Tennessee Student Free Expression Act”.  Students from various colleges and universities in Tennessee are expected to be present at the conference.

“In view of recent events surrounding Milo Yiannopolous at The University of California, Berkley and elsewhere on other college campuses, it’s important for us, as a state, to step up and protect basic First Amendment rights”, said Representative Daniel. “We should encourage all forms of lawful speech and expression, even if controversial or disagreeable. This is what makes America great.”

This legislation would require that institutions of higher education adopt a policy on speech and expression that would confirm students’ freedom of speech as a fundamental right, guarantees them the broadest latitude to speak about any issue that presents itself, and allows students to openly and vigorously discuss ideas that other members of the institution’s community might find disagreeable. Furthermore, the Act would prohibit public higher education institutions from discouraging any type of lawful speech or expressive activity, and would establish all outside premises of the institution as “public forums”.

“In Tennessee, the First Amendment does not stop at the campus gate,” said Representative Daniel. “We can’t allow politically correct policies to smother free speech. Courtesy and civility, while encouraged, can never trump basic constitutional rights. Tennessee’s institutions of higher education should prepare our students for the real world, and encouraging expression of all sorts of viewpoints is essential to that objective.”

The Free Expression Act is being sponsored in the Senate by Joey Hensley

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