Critics, including the ACLU, are condemning not only the city’s requirement but also Texas’s anti-protest law—and similiar measures enacted across the U.S. and under consideration in Congress—as violations of constitutional free speech rights.
“It is absolutely unconscionable for state and local governments to impose political litmus tests on disaster relief funds for people devastated by Hurricane Harvey.”
—Brian Hauss, ACLU
“Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity,” said ACLU of Texas legal director Andre Segura.
“The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott,” Segura added, “and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression.”
Last week, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Kansas law that similarly bars state contractors from participating in protests of Israel.
“These bills and laws vary in numerous respects,” ACLU attorney Brian Hauss wrote recently for Haaretz, “but they share a common goal of scaring people away people from participating in boycotts meant to protest Israeli government policies, including what are known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”
“Like the law we challenged in Kansas, Texas’s law clearly violates the First Amendment,” Hauss told The Intercept.
“It is absolutely unconscionable for state and local governments to impose political litmus tests on disaster relief funds for people devastated by Hurricane Harvey,” he added. “The government should not be denying disaster relief funds based on people’s political beliefs.”
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