ACLU sues over Kansas law that targets Israel boycotts

ACLU sues over Kansas law that targets Israel boycotts”

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) welcomed on Wednesday a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenging an anti-boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) law in the state of Kansas for its violation of the First Amendment.

The ACLU is representing Esther Koontz, a curriculum coach at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita. It says Esther Koontz was denied a state teacher training contract because she wouldn't sign a statement saying she wasn't boycotting Israel.

To view the full article, register now. Koontz has chose to not purchase products made by Israeli companies and companies that operate in occupied Palestinian territories, in order to comply with calls (pdf) for an Israel boycott by members of her congregation. "This law is an unconstitutional attempt by the government to silence one side of a public debate by coercing people not to express their beliefs, including through participation in a political boycott". "That means it can not impose ideological litmus tests or loyalty oaths as a condition on hiring or contracting".

Under the law, state contractors are required to sign a statement affirming that they do not engage in boycotts - a constitutionally protected right.

"I'm disappointed that I can't be a math trainer for the state of Kansas because of my political views about human rights across the globe", said Koontz.

The lead attorneys in the lawsuit are Stephen Douglas Bonney with the ACLU office in Overland Park, and Hauss, with the ACLU office in New York City.

"By requiring all state contractors to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel, Kansas's law unconstitutionally disqualifies people from working for the state based on protected expression and association that has nothing to do with their jobs", Hauss said.

"Israel is a strong trade partner with Kansas, and any company openly boycotting Israel and its products is perpetuating an act of economic warfare against a Kansas trade partner and ally".

While the ACLU does not take a position on the boycott of Israel, "the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this important First Amendment right".

Israel ranks 25 among the foreign countries the state does business with, according to the Kansas Department of Commerce. "That's why the ACLU has opposed anti-boycott bills in state legislatures for the past several years".

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