(MIAMI)—PEN America said today it was heartened by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding the preliminary injunction against Florida’s Stop WOKE Act for “blatant viewpoint discrimination.” The ruling in Honeyfund.com Inc. vs. DeSantis affirmed the unconstitutionality of the Stop Woke Act on employer training.

PEN America filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the Stop WOKE Act’s negative ramifications on the free expression rights of Floridians cannot be overstated. “This ruling is a victory for free expression and free speech. We have long argued that the Stop WOKE Act cannot pass constitutional muster based on its blatant viewpoint discrimination. We are thankful, but not surprised, that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agrees,” said Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America’s Florida office.

Honeyfund.com Inc. vs. DeSantis is among several lawsuits against the Stop WOKE Act, a broad law that impacts employers and educators, both in higher education and K-12 schools.

In its ruling on the Stop WOKE Act, the court found clear violations of the First Amendment, ruling: “Under Florida’s proposed standard, a government could ban riding on a parade float if it did not agree with the message on the banner. The government could ban pulling chairs into a circle for book clubs discussing disfavored books. And so on. The First Amendment is not so easily neutered.”

The Court was unequivocal in finding that the bill was incompatible with core First Amendment liberties: “Florida’s law exceeds the bounds of the First Amendment. No matter how controversial the ideas, allowing the government to set the terms of the debate is poison, not antidote.”

Elly Brinkley, a legal fellow with PEN America, said: “We are gratified that the court recognized that government should have no role in deciding how employers can or should limit speech in the workplace as it impacts training for workers.”

Brinkley said the court’s decision to leave in place a preliminary injunction “bodes very well” for the upcoming 11th Circuit hearing in Pernell v. Lamb, which secured a preliminary injunction against the law, officially called the Individual Freedom Act, in higher education. PEN America submitted an amicus brief asking the court to uphold the injunction in that lawsuit as well.

This decision comes at a critical time in the Florida legislative session, when lawmakers and the governor are contemplating yet another educational censorship bill, SB 1372/HB1291, that includes similar provisions as the Stop WOKE Act but in regards to educator preparation programs.

“Workers, teachers, and students all deserve to have a free and open exchange about issues of concern to them, not censored discussions based on what the government thinks they should hear,” said Blankenship. “This is the absolute core of our Constitutional right to free speech. As the Eleventh Circuit so eloquently reminded us: “The First Amendment is not so easily neutered.”

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