Legal Organizations Tell PA Lawmakers Anti-Boycott Legislation is Unconstitutional
Today, Palestine Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, and the Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to Pennsylvania state legislators urging them to oppose a bill that would cut off state funding to colleges and universities that boycott or divest from Israel. If passed, the bill, which was recently introduced by State Representative Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks County), would violate basic constitutional rights by targeting and chilling protected political speech.
Moves to boycott and divest from Israel cannot be differentiated from other historical boycotts simply because they may be unpopular with elected officials today. The letter states:
Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the cause the boycott and divestment movement promotes, it is undisputed that colleges and universities may boycott and divest in response to issues of public concern.
The bill is one of a series of state and Congressional legislative initiatives that have appeared across the country in response to the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Because the BDS movement utilizes First Amendment-protected advocacy to protest Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights, legislative initiatives aimed at curbing the movement often rely on unconstitutional tactics.