American Civil Liberties Union goes to Supreme Court over BDS and the right to boycott

American Civil Liberties Union goes to Supreme Court over BDS and the right to boycott
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
21 October, 2022
The ACLU has petitioned the US Supreme Court to review a decision that many fear could have far-reaching implications for Americans' First Amendment rights.
The battle for the right to boycott will take place at the US Supreme Court [Getty]

Washington: The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the US Supreme Court to review a recent appeals court decision that many fear would ultimately not only end the legal protections for Americans to boycott, but also have far-reaching implications for free speech in general.

The ACLU and its Arkansas chapter filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Thursday urging it to review a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit holding that the First Amendment of the US Constitution does not fully protect the right to boycott. 

"The ACLU is urging the Supreme Court to review the Eighth Circuit’s decision, which concluded that politically-motivated consumer boycotts are not protected by the First Amendment," said the ACLU in a statement.

It noted that the Eighth Circuit had previously ruled the law violated the first amendment protecting free speech, including the right to boycott.

Noting the court's inconsistency, the ACLU noted that "the court found 'the purchasing decisions at the heart of a boycott' are not protected by the Constitution, even when, as in this case, the government selectively targets specific boycotts for special penalties". 

This comes in response to recent laws introduced by more than 30 state legislatures aimed at prohibiting a boycott of Israeli goods, all of which have been blocked as unconstitutional - until now.

The slew of anti-BDS state legislation began in Arkansas, a rural southern state with no significant connection with the Middle East.

Nevertheless, a newspaper, The Arkansas Times, was penalised when its publisher refused to pledge that they would not boycott Israel, even if it would mean losing advertising revenue.

Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement: "The right to free speech includes the right to participate in political boycotts. America was founded on political boycotts, and boycotts are a powerful way to speak and create change.

"This state legislative majority wanted the government to have power to force people to relinquish their First Amendment rights or pay a penalty, and that is a dangerous step backward for our rights."