By Kevin Deutsch
Gov. Ron DeSantis last week signed a bill into law creating new law enforcement mechanisms to punish perpetrators of antisemitic incidents, as well as those who target religious communities.
DeSantis signed Florida House Bill 269 while visiting Israel as part of an international trade mission. The governor’s office said in a press release that the new religious protection law “has once again made Florida a leader in protecting religious liberty and the State of Israel both in the United States and around the world.”
“In 2019, I had the opportunity here in Israel to sign into law groundbreaking legislation to root out antisemitism from our public education system, establishing Florida as a leader in protecting religious liberty,” DeSantis said, referring to 2019 legislation that sought to combat antisemitism in public education and placed economic sanctions on Airbnb when it attempted to boycott Jewish homeowners in the West Bank.
“Four years later, the threats faced by religious Americans of all faiths have evolved,” DeSantis said. “Through this legislation, we are ensuring that perpetrators who commit acts of antisemitism and target religious groups or individuals will be punished.”
Among other changes to state law, HB 269 prohibits a person from intentionally dumping litter onto private property for the purpose of intimidating or threatening the owner, resident, or invitee of that property; prohibits a person from harassing, threatening, or intimidating another person based on that person’s wearing or displaying of any indicia relating to any religious or ethnic heritage; creates a new prohibition against displaying or projecting an image onto a building or property without the owner’s written consent; creates a new trespassing crime for offenders who threaten or intimidate people on college campuses; and prohibits a person from interrupting or disturbing any gathering held to remember the dead.
The misdemeanor and felony penalties for each of the new violations can be found here.
Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high last year, with 3,697 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism tracked by the Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The 2022 total represents the largest number of incidents against Jews in the U.S. recorded since ADL began publishing incident data in 1979.
A host of antisemitic incidents and hate crimes have been reported across South Florida in the past year, including antisemitic pamphlets left at homes in Coral Springs and Parkland in June 2022. Law enforcement has not publicly identified a perpetrator or perpetrators in the cases.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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