(WASHINGTON)— PEN America said it was gravely concerned over adoption by the House of Representatives on Wednesday of H.R.6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which it characterized as an overbroad bill that could harm academic freedom, free speech, and legitimate political speech.

Combating antisemitic speech and bigotry is an urgent imperative and one that PEN America seeks. In light of the significant rise in antisemitic incidents around the country, the goal is more important than ever, the free speech and free expression organization said.

However, the bill would adopt the definition of antisemitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws in education programs or activities.  

This definition, and its illustrative examples, is overbroad; its enshrinement into law could lead  to significant impairment of academic freedom, free speech and legitimate political expression. Codifying the IHRA definition, which was never intended to be legally binding or otherwise codified into law, is not the right way to attack antisemitic speech and bigotry. Its vague nature is ill-suited to serve as a legal standard, much less form a basis for punitive action.

“We urge the Senate to reject the companion bill (S.3141) and instead focus on efforts that will both address antisemitism and protect free expression,” PEN America stated. 

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057