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President Office — Press Release


June 9, 2017

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229

Governor Scott Signs Senate Legislation to Protect Constitutional Freedoms

Legislation Protects Freedom of Religion and Right to Self-Defense

Tallahassee —

Florida Governor Rick Scott today signed two key pieces of Senate legislation designed to protect constitutional freedoms. Senate Bill 436, Religious Expression in Public Schools, sponsored by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) and Senate Bill 128, Self-defense Immunity, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).


Religious Liberty

Senate Bill 436 creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.


“Freedom of Religion is a central right protected by our Constitution. The government should not impose a religion, but all too often we see the other extreme where we are taking away people’s right to free speech and their right to practice their faith in a way they believe is appropriate,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “Students of any faith, or no faith, have a right to free speech. The Legislature and Governor Scott are taking the steps necessary to protect this important constitutional right of public school students, parents, teachers, and school administrators. We commend Governor Scott for signing this outstanding bill into law today.”


“Students should not have to surrender their constitutional rights or their religious beliefs at the school house door. Neither should teachers, administrators or parents,” said Senator Baxley. “For many Floridians, instilling faith in their religious convictions is a central component of child rearing and family life. Students should not be prevented from discussing these convictions with their peers, or incorporating religious beliefs in their attire, assignments, and extracurricular activities. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are fundamental to our way of life as Americans and this legislation ensures that we protect these critical rights in our taxpayer-funded public schools.”


Right to Self-Defense

Senate Bill 128, Self-defense Immunity, protects the right to self-defense for all Floridians by changing the burden of proof and who must bear it during pretrial hearings to evaluate a defendant’s claim of immunity based on a justifiable use of force. The bill places the burden of proof on the state and requires the state to overcome the immunity claim by offering evidence meeting the standard of clear and convincing evidence.


“If the State of Florida is going to accuse a citizen of committing a crime, the State of Florida should have the burden of proof at each and every part of the proceeding. This legislation requires the state to meet the standard of clear and convincing evidence to overcome an immunity claim. I am grateful to Governor Scott for signing this huge step towards better protection of the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to all citizens,” said President Negron.


“A defendant always has the presumption of innocence and the state always has a burden of proof,” said Senator Bradley. “This fundamental premise is guaranteed in our Constitution and understood intuitively by all Floridians. Fidelity to the Constitution is our most important responsibility as legislators, and I am pleased to see this legislation earn the support of Governor Scott today.”