Kansas Doesn’t Even Try to Defend Its Israel Anti-Boycott Law

Kansas officials are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow to defend a state law designed to suppress boycotts of Israel. There’s just one problem: The state quite literally has no defense for the law’s First Amendment violations.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in October against a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements. We represent Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was hired by the state to train other teachers. Together with members of her Mennonite church, Esther boycotts Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians. After she explained that she could not in good conscience sign the statement, the state refused to let her participate in the training program.

The law violates the First Amendment, which protects the right to participate in political boycotts. That right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1982, when it ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi during the civil rights movement was a protected form of free expression and free association. But despite long-held consensus around the right to boycott, we were still pretty surprised when Kansas didn’t even try to argue the law is constitutional.

We asked for a preliminary injunction, which would immediately halt enforcement of the law and allow Esther to do the job she was hired for. In its response brief, Kansas doesn’t mention the First Amendment even once, even though the entire case turns on the myriad ways the law violates First Amendment rights. Instead, the government relies on a couple half-baked procedural arguments in an attempt to convince the court to leave the law in place for now.

First, Kansas argues that a preliminary injunction isn’t necessary because Esther could always receive monetary damages at the end of the lawsuit, should she win. But courts have long recognized that the government can’t use money damages to buy off the loss of First Amendment rights.

The government’s other argument is that the Kansas secretary of administration would have given Esther a waiver, had she sought one, exempting her from the requirement to refrain from boycotting Israel. But the government can’t neutralize legal challenges to blatantly unconstitutional laws by making one-off exceptions for the people who happen to file lawsuits. Even if Esther could have gotten a waiver, that wouldn’t help other Kansans affected by the law.

The Kansas law isn’t an aberration. Some two dozen states have laws or executive orders on the books designed to chill boycotts of Israel. (Two such executive orders, in Maryland and Wisconsin, were issued just this past October.) A similar law in Texas came under scrutiny when a municipality interpreted it to condition hurricane relief on a commitment not to boycott Israel. A separate federal bill threatens heavy sanctions against people who participate in certain international boycott campaigns against the country.

These laws share a common goal of silencing one side of an important political debate about a decades-old conflict. They simply can’t be squared with the right to free political expression. That must be why Kansas didn’t even bother trying.

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Anonymous

LOL. Anyone who cites Dershowitz to support their case is a joke.

IsraelIsAParasite

FuckyouZionistParasite. Israel is a plague on humanity and it's time to cut the grass.

Anonymous

"It's just an extension to an existing law" isn't a valid defense. You certainly wouldn't agree with it if a state put in a law saying that you can't be involved with "pro-life" organizations and contract with the state - and that's got at least as much of a legal leg to stand on.

Anonymous

Something to think about...

If a state made a law saying they weren’t going to work with caterers who refused to cater gay and lesbian weddings, would the ACLU defend the caterers?

If a state made a law saying they weren’t going to work with caterers who refused to cater weddings of gay and lesbian Israelis, would the ACLU defend the caterers?

If a state made a law saying they weren’t going to work with caterers who refused to cater Israeli weddings, would the ACLU defend the caterers?

We already know the answer to the third question is “yes”. If the ACLU wants to win their case the answer to the first two questions also needs to be “yes”, but I’m not so sure that it would be...

Anonymous

The BDS boycott does not discriminate against Israeli nationals. It targets Israeli businesses and international businesses involved in the oppression of Palestinians. Your hypothetical situations are not relevant.

Anonymous

Your analogy does not make sense nor holds water.

A person or an institution should be free to spend its money how it pleases. If I don't want to buy Israeli products then I should not be forced to do so. If I don't like American cars (as an example) there is no law "not yet" that forces me to buy american cars.

Israel is an apartheid state, all of it exists on stolen land and it continues to steal whatever remains from the West Bank, it practices genocide against the Palestinian people. By every international account it is a worse apartheid than how south africa used to be.

It is not a choice of sexual orientation (as you try to make in your example), it is simply Racism and discrimination against anyone who is not Jewish, not only that but preferably White European Jewish. Do your own research and you will find all this out.

Anonymous

Kansas and much of America is a puppet to Israhell and does what israel orders.

A person should be free to buy or not buy any product for any reason. I don't buy American cars because they are junk, why is not there a law to make that illegal ??

This proves my point that this country continues to be a puppet to the Apartheid state of israhell.

Why would a state or a country that claim to be the champion of human rights does not stand against the oppression of the Palestinians by the state of israhell ??

And defense against occupation is NOT terrorism, the biggest terrorists in the world are the USA and Israel....they kill more civilians than anyone else.

Wake the fuck up and smell the Napalm.

Anonymous

It's not about being a "puppet" to Israel. It's actually, in some ways, even worse. There's a stupidly large segment of the US population that expects - even wants - the End of the World and the Second Coming of Christ to happen *now*. Preferably the week between Christmas and New Year's. Their revelations fantasy requires Israel to build a new Temple and be the focal point of another chain of wars in the Middle East. That's why Trump said he recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. That's why there's so many middle-eastern warmongers over here. They think they're fulfilling biblical prophecy, and *using* Israel and its worst behaviors to do so.

Anonymous

@Dr. Joseph Goebbels, something a Jews supporter would say...

Roger Smith

Mid 70's, we countered jihad by the adoption of two laws .. amendments to Export Admin Act and Ribicoff Amendment to 1976 Tax Reform Act .. applying to boycotts of foreign countries, unsanctioned by the United States.

BDS is not only illegal, by "U.S. persons" (individuals, corporations, associate residents, domestic affiliates of foreign concerns and citizens abroad) .. it's a direct and immoral attack upon an exceptional U.S. friend and ally.

Kansas is right, Koontz & other members can shove it.

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