South Carolina became the first state to pass legislation to protect students from anti-Semitic acts.
The State Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation, H3643, in a 37-4 vote on Thursday as part of a larger spending package. The bill passed the State House of Representatives in March in a 116-2 vote. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has expressed support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law.
“Anti-Semitism, and the forces that have led to its resurgence, are not representative of the values of South Carolina,” said State Representative Alan Clemmons, who authored the legislation.
The South Carolina bill will help break down the barriers in the fight against anti-Semitism by providing educators and administrators with a clear and uniform definition to recognize anti-Jewish bigotry, according to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law.
“There has been an alarming increase in anti-Semitism nationwide, and particularly on our nation’s college campuses,” stated LDB’s director of legal initiatives Aviva Vogelstein. “This bill gives South Carolina the tools to protect Jewish students’ and all South Carolina students’ right to a learning environment free of unlawful discrimination.”
The definition included in the bill is similar to the one used by the U.S. State Department and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism that has been adopted by 31 countries.
That definition states: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The legislation comes amid an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and on college campuses.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in America increased by 60 percent in 2017, and nearly doubled on American college campuses. The same report found that anti-Semitic incidents at non-Jewish elementary, middle and high schools increased 106 percent in the same period.
“We have been dismayed by the rise of anti-Semitism, including harassment, intimidation and vandalism against Jewish students,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement.
“This bill adopts the State Department definition of anti-Semitism and gives law enforcement an important tool for protecting students against unlawful acts motivated by prejudice,” she said. “With a clear definition of anti-Jewish bigotry, law enforcement and administrators will be better equipped to prosecute and prevent hate crimes.”