Groups Warn Missouri Lawmakers to Withdraw Unconstitutional Anti-Boycott Bills

 Missouri state capital. Photo: RebelAt/WikiCommons

Missouri state capital. Photo: RebelAt/WikiCommons

On Tuesday, Palestine Legal issued a legislative memorandum to lawmakers in Missouri, urging them to withdraw unconstitutional anti-boycott bills pending in the state legislature, and warning that failure to do so could result in costly legal challenges. The memorandum was co-signed by fourteen other organizations.

The bills, S.B. 849 and H.B. 2179, would prohibit companies and non-profits from contracting with public entities in Missouri unless they certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.

The memo notes that a federal judge in Kansas issued a preliminary injunction in January, blocking a nearly identical law from being enforced pending the outcome of an ACLU lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.

In blocking the Kansas anti-boycott law, the judge noted that “the conduct the [law] aims to regulate is inherently expressive. It is easy enough to associate plaintiff’s conduct with the message that the boycotters believe Israel should improve its treatment of Palestinians. And boycotts—like parades—have an expressive quality. Forcing plaintiff to disown her boycott is akin to forcing plaintiff to accommodate Kansas’s message of support for Israel.”

A similar lawsuit is pending in Arizona.

Since 2015, twenty-four states have enacted anti-boycott laws targeting Palestinian rights activism, despite legal warnings from Palestine Legal and other groups. Congress is currently considering the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which, if enacted, would impose severe financial and criminal penalties on some actions taken in support of boycotts for Palestinian rights.

Click here to read the Missouri memo.