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Connolly Statement on H.R. 6090

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) released the following statement:

"Across our country we have seen record increases in Islamophobia and antisemitism. All of these incidents must be condemned, and never ignored.

Just as important, however, is our sacred responsibility to protect free speech, even speech we find abhorrent. Words matter, and there is a clear difference between criticizing something and hate speech. It is why I felt so strongly that I had to oppose H.Res 894, which conflated anti-zionism with antisemitism. I was one of 14 members of the House to cast that vote, and I stand by it.

My record is clear. I have not been reluctant to call out wrongs committed by Netanyahu’s far-right government, illegal settlements and acts of violence carried out by settlers in the West Bank, or the potentially catastrophic plans to carry out military missions in Rafah. To suggest that is antisemitic is not only wrong, but I will vigorously oppose those who attempt to stifle the right to that speech.

I voted for H.R. 6090 because I believe it does not restrict free speech. In fact, the final clause explicitly states, 'Nothing in this Act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' This bill simply allows the Department of Education to consider the IHRA definition, which is already considered in these investigations, and is used by the State Department. H.R. 6090 will not criminalize criticism of Netanyahu, nor will I stop my criticism of him. I urge the House to take up similar legislation to address Islamophobia on campuses.

Finally, as a child of the ‘60s who protested the Vietnam War, counseled on the draft, and organized with Jesse Jackson, I will always protect peaceful protest. Even if I don’t like what you are saying, you have a right to say it, peacefully. However, violence, disruption that deprives others of their rights, and hate speech cannot be tolerated. Most of the activists across the country are peaceful, but those who are violent, regardless of their race, religion, or background, should face consequences. Their actions cannot take hostage civil discourse and debate. My career has been all about taking tough stands for justice. Even when not popular."
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