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Maria Briceño
By Maria Briceño May 16, 2024

The Antisemitism Act hasn’t proposed to ‘eliminate’ part of the Bible

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  • PolitiFact didn’t find any text in the Antisemitism Awareness Act that mentions eliminating parts of the Bible.

  • Experts also confirmed that the bill doesn’t propose to eliminate parts of the book.

  • They also said that prohibiting the Bible would be going against the freedom of expression and religion under the First Amendment. 

The Antisemitism Awareness Act, a bill that was voted on during a surge in pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses against the Israel-Hamas war, has sparked claims on social media that it eliminates parts of the Bible.

A May 9 Instagram post in Spanish shows news segments reporting about the bill and a man explaining: 

"The House of Representatives in the U.S. just passed in an almost unanimous way, 320 votes in favor and 91 against, this past May 1, the Antisemitism Act, which proposes to eliminate parts of the Bible. Nothing more and nothing less than the New Testament for the teaching that the Gospels said that Jesus was handed over by Herod to the Jews to be crucified."

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The man in the video says that the Antisemitism Act proposes to eliminate parts of the Bible, but PolitiFact didn’t find any mentions of the religious book or its passages in the bill’s text.

What does the bill say? 

The bill, passed May 1 by the U.S. House of Representatives, requires the federal Education Department to use the definition of antisemitism outlined by the Stockholm-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance when addressing allegations of discrimination in higher education. If discrimination is determined to have occurred, schools would risk losing federal funding. Currently, there is no standard definition for antisemitism in such discrimination cases.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition says:

"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." 

Conservative critics have also expressed concern about the bill and whether the antisemitism definition could cover elements of the Bible.

Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker mentioned the Antisemitism Act in a May 14 commencement speech at Benedictine College, saying, "Congress just passed a bill, where stating something as basic as the biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail."

@politifact Would a bill in Congress take away the ability to state teachings from the Bible, as Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker said? No. Here’s what the Antisemitism Awareness Act would do. #factcheck #congress #harrisonbutker #bible #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ original sound - PolitiFact

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., posted May 1 on X that the text of the bill "could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews."

The Anti-Defamation League considers blaming Jews for killing Jesus a "myth" and said it "has been used to justify violence against Jews for centuries. Historians as well as Christian leaders have agreed that the claim is baseless." After centuries of teaching that Jewish people as a whole killed Jesus, the Catholic Church rejected the belief in 1965, a stance then-Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in 2011.

Could the bill eliminate parts of the Bible?

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., a sponsor of the bill, has dismissed concerns that the bill would eliminate parts of the Bible, telling CNN the claims were "inflammatory and it's irrational." Legal experts and political experts had the same take.

Ernesto Sagás, a professor at Colorado State University’s ethnic studies department, told PolitiFact that it doesn’t make sense for the government to create a new law to "eliminate" the New Testament, since the government could not prohibit the religious work’s publication because of the rights of free speech and religion established by the First Amendment. 

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"Is the government going to prohibit (the Bible’s) publication, despite the rights of free expression and freedom of religion established by the First Amendment? Filed (the post) under ‘conspiracy theory’," Sagás said.

Jason Mazzone, a law professor and director of the program in constitutional theory, history and law at the University of Illinois, also told us that nothing in the Antisemitism Act imposes a requirement to eliminate the Bible.

"There is no plausible reading of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act as banning the New Testament. The Act doesn't ban anything: it provides a definition for enforcement of Title VI," Mazzone said, referring to a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. "And Title VI has never been understood to require schools and other recipients of federal funding to remove or prohibit from campus books on the basis that they contain or may contain offensive material."

He also added there are some First Amendment concerns with the proposed bill because the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s vague definition leaves people guessing about what kinds of expression or conduct are prohibited. 

However, Mazzone said that the Education Department’s mandate is to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition only when enforcing Title VI. 

 "There is no necessary reason to think that the result of the Act, if adopted, will be to punish or chill speech that the First Amendment protects."

Gregory P. Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told PolitiFact previously that he sees the concern over the Bible as a stretch.

"My best sense is that the Bible is sufficiently normatively ingrained in Western cultures, especially in the U.S., that no government actor would be at all likely to invoke the (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition against any common usage of the Bible," Magarian said.

Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the Antisemitism Act wouldn’t eliminate part of the Bible, nor criminalize biblical teaching. 

He said in an email to PolitiFact the bill would provide guidance for the Education Department in considering a definition of antisemitism when it handles complaints that universities are "tolerating anti-Semitic harassment of or discrimination against students."

The proposal is now in the U.S. Senate, where its future is uncertain.

It’s also unclear how binding the bill would be. It is phrased as a "sense of Congress" legislation, which is language typically used for nonbinding, advisory legislation. However, the measure also says that the Education Department "shall" take into consideration the definition of antisemitism, which seems to leave no wiggle room.

Our ruling

An Instagram post says "The House of Representatives in the U.S. just passed … the Antisemitism Act that proposes to eliminate part of the Bible."

But the text in the bill doesn’t mention anything about eliminating parts of the Bible. Experts told us that prohibiting the book would be going against the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and religion rights.

Other experts also told us the claim is inaccurate. 

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, May 9, 2024

PolitiFact, The Antisemitism Awareness Act: What to know, May 10, 2024

Email interview with Ernesto Sagás, a professor at the Colorado State University, May 14, 2024, H.R.6090 - Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023, accessed May 14

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Working definition of antisemitism, accessed May 14, 2024

Anti-Defamation League, Myth: Jews Killed Jesus, accessed May 14, 2024

Google Books, Jesus of Nazareth, accessed May 14, 2024

Reuters, Pope book says Jews not guilty of Christ's death, March 2, 2011

CNN, Rep. Moskowtiz: Antisemitism bill is "bipartisan effort", May 1, 2024

TikTok post, May 14, 2024

Email interview with Jason Mazzone, a law professor and director of the program in constitutional theory, history and law at the University of Illinois, May 15, 2024

Email interview with Eugene Volokh, a professor who teaches First Amendment law at the University of California, Los Angeles, May 15, 2024

U.S. Department of Education, Education and Title VI, accessed May 16, 2024

CBS News, Pope Exonerates Jews for Jesus' Death in Book, March 2, 2011, Nostra Aetate : A milestone,  accessed May 16, 2024

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The Antisemitism Act hasn’t proposed to ‘eliminate’ part of the Bible

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