The New ‘Texas Antisemitism Lottery’ Should Pay Out Big in Lawsuit Awards and Settlements

by | Apr 26, 2024

The Texas Lottery has paid out many millions of dollars to winners of its games of chance since voters in the state approved its creation in 1991. This week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a new lottery of sorts — the “Texas Antisemitism Lottery” — that could rival and maybe even surpass the original Texas Lottery in cash payouts.

One of the more sure things in constitutional law is that a person subjected to punishment by government because of the content of his communication has had his free speech rights violated and, therefore, should be compensated for the harm. This is especially the case when that communication is centered on political matters, such as actions of the Israel government undertaken in its United States government funded and armed war effort. Thus, it is unusual to see government publicly declaring its intention to take action to wipe out the expression of a particular viewpoint.

Nonetheless, that is just what the governor of Texas did on Wednesday when he posted the following message at Twitter above another individual’s Twitter post including video of police in riot gear walking en masse down a street at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) — a Texas state school:

Arrests being made right now & will continue until the crowd disperses.

These protesters belong in jail.

Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period.

Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled.

By the way, for Abbot the word “antisemitism” has a much broader meaning than it does for most people. Abbott even defines as antisemitism saying things critical of the government of Israel. Abbott made this clear in his March 27 executive order focused on countering “antisemitism” at Texas higher education institutions. That executive order directed all Texas higher education institutions, UT included, to, among other things, “Include the definition of antisemitism, adopted by the State of Texas in Section 448.001 of the Texas Government Code, in university free speech policies to guide university personnel and students on what constitutes antisemitic speech.”

The referenced Texas statutory provision’s definition of antisemitism includes the following: “Examples of antisemitism are included with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’ adopted on May 26, 2016.” Looking through those examples, one encounters several that concern criticizing the government of Israel. “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” are two examples.

There may have been articulable reasons to shut down or at least impose some limits on the protest at UT that courts would find acceptable. But, Abbott managed to offer instead a reason that pretty much assures people roughed up, arrested, or jailed will come out of the experience in a strong position for asserting a claim for free speech violation. The same goes for people the state university expels at Abbott’s direction for taking part in the protest.

The police and Abbott have had their day at UT. And they may keep suppressing speech similarly at colleges across the state. Next should be their comeuppance. Lawyers are busy now communicating with victims of the speech content targeting crackdown and preparing court action.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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