Speaking on behalf of a bill centered around free speech, a Knoxville-based lawmaker on Wednesday said a terrorist organization should be allowed to recruit on college campuses in Tennessee.
While presenting a billed dubbed the “Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act,” Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, fielded a question from Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis, about whether he believed ISIS should be able to stand in the middle of university campuses and “recruit for ISIS.”
“Yes,” Daniel replied. “So long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings on that campus. Yes sir. They can recruit people for any other organization or any other cause. I think it’s just part of being exposed to differing viewpoints.”
The remarks came after a debate about the bill, which Daniel said “would direct schools to observe freedom of speech on campus.”
While introducing the legislation, Daniel said students’ free speech on Tennessee college campuses has been diminished in recent years because of unfair policies.
He pointed to a requirement at Middle Tennessee State University, which he said forces students interested in handing out literature on the school’s property to fill out an application five days in advance. He added that Tennessee State University had a policy that prohibits disruption in any form on its campus.
DeBerry and Daniel engaged in a brief discussion about the merits of the bill, which the Democrat challenged.
DeBerry argued that the world has changed from the days of the 1960s, which he said was an era of protest and time of change, while asking Daniel if he considered the fact that the world has changed since then.
“There are young people who are not ready yet — they’re half-baked, half-cooked — who are recruited to work against their own parents, their own nation, and I would be concerned as a parent and as a citizen,” DeBerry said. “Free speech is one thing; being stupid is another.”
“Our schools are tending towards shielding students away from objectionable speech,” Daniel said.
Immediately after Daniel argued that ISIS should be allowed to recruit on college campuses, House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee Chairman Mark White, R-Germantown, recommended the bill be taken off notice. Before that, Daniel said he hoped the committee would send the bill to summer study.