The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that boycotts are constitutionally protected speech. Nonetheless, Kansas passed a law requiring all those who contract with the state to certify that they are not boycotting Israel.
“Speech, assembly, and petition . . . to change a social order. . . [are] on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”
— US Supreme Court
“The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”
— US District Judge Daniel Crabtree
A federal judge in Topeka has ruled that Kansas cannot tell contractors what they can and cannot boycott. That would seem obvious to anyone familiar with free speech protections under the First Amendment.
But last summer, Kansas passed a law requiring all those who contract with the state to certify that they are not boycotting Israel.
Why? In his opinion blocking enforcement of the law while the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union continues, US District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote that its supporters in the Kansas Legislature argued that it was intended “to stop people from antagonizing Israel.”
They “emphasized the need to oppose ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ campaigns,” Crabtree wrote, “which protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
In other words, the law is supposed to limit political speech. A similar bill proposed in Congress, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, would criminalize such speech outright.
Have we forgotten that the American Revolution grew out of a boycott of British goods? So did the civil rights protections won through the Montgomery bus boycott.