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Ben Shapiro speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018, in Los Angeles, CaliforniaPhoto by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon

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(LifeSiteNews) — Conservatives including Ben Shapiro are warning a recently passed bill ostensibly aimed at addressing “antisemitism” could lead to universities squelching the speech of Christians.

“Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis,” could be considered antisemitism under the legislation that was rushed through without the normal procedure of allowing debate and amendments.

Republican-backed House Resolution 6090 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. It is in response to ongoing protests, sometimes violent, on college campuses, aimed at supporters of Israel. It would amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin, to “consider” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism “for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws.”

The bill, from New York Republican Mike Lawler, sat in committee since October, only to be quickly pushed through beginning earlier this week.

Twenty-one Republicans opposed the bill, including conservatives such as Byron Donalds (FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), and Matt Gaetz (FL). Seventy Democrats also opposed the bill.

The bill next needs to pass the Senate, where Republicans Rick Scott (FL), Tom Cotton (AR), and others have a similar piece of legislation.

The bill would codify the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism into federal law. The group defines antisemitism as follows:

Antisemitism 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 Department of Education could then use this definition to investigate K-12 and colleges for harassment of Jewish students. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to this effect in 2019.

IHRA examples of “manifestations” of antisemitism, according to their definition, include saying the Jews killed Jesus or making “stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew and Harvard University law school grad, said the bill is “obviously unconstitutionally vague,” on his show Thursday.

He also said the New Testament clearly said the Jews did hand over Jesus to Pontius Pilate to be killed. “Christians saying all that stuff [about Jewish leaders having Jesus killed], doesn’t make Christians antisemitic,” Shapiro said.

He said the IHRA may have been going for the claim, “rejected by the Catholic Church… that Jews today are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.”

Other conservatives pointed out the bill could punish Biblical beliefs.

“Did the House of Representatives just make parts of the Bible illegal,” Turning Point USA CEO Charlie Kirk wrote on X Wednesday night.

“Yes. The New Testament,” Tucker Carlson replied.

Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles agreed the bill could punish the New Testament.

“Yes. It also restricts criticism of a foreign government. Suffice it to say, Senate Republicans must reject this ridiculous bill,” Knowles wrote on X (formerly Twitter), responding to Kirk.

“Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews,” Rep. Greene wrote on X.

Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy called it a “show vote” and criticized “Republican leadership” for pushing the bill without allowing debate and amendments.

“It was jammed through to take advantage of this political moment,” Roy said.

Matt Walsh with the Daily Wire also criticized the bill’s vagueness.

“The vast majority of Republicans just voted for a bill to criminalize criticisms of the Israeli government. If the bill passes you will be guilty of hate speech if you ‘apply double standards’ to the government of Israel or accuse it of genocide,” he wrote on X. “This is honestly one of the most insane pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen.”

Kristen Waggoner, the president of Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the top Constitutional legal groups in the country, warned about how the legislation would be used to squelch free speech.

Waggoner condemned antisemitism and warned:

While the legislation doesn’t purport to outright ban speech, it puts a thumb on the scale against certain beliefs and statements that many of us consider to be not just wrong, but evil. We’ve seen the consequences of vague hate speech bills in places like Europe, however, where governments have weaponized legislation to jail individuals for viewpoints they don’t like. Those laws have repeatedly been weaponized against ADF clients around the world.

“Given the fraught history of laws that call out specific viewpoints for punishment, Congress should act carefully and with due regard for the First Amendment as it grapples with the explosion of antisemitism across our country,” she warned. “That includes ensuring that no law it passes can be used to punish Americans for their constitutionally protected speech.”

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