ST. LOUIS – In a victory for the ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas, who had challenged the law on behalf of the Arkansas Times LP, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals today held that an Arkansas law requiring government contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel or reduce their fees by 20 percent violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arkansas Times LP, which was penalized by the government after it refused to certify that it is not boycotting Israel or Israel-controlled territories.
“It’s a good day for the freedom of speech in Arkansas,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “Arkansas politicians had no business penalizing our clients for refusing to participate in this ideological litmus test. Free speech isn’t a privilege you pay for, it’s a right guaranteed to every Arkansan.”
The majority opinion by Judge Jane L. Kelly affirmed that “supporting or promoting boycotts of Israel is constitutionally protected” and yet the law required “government contractors to abstain from such constitutionally protected activity.”
“We’re thrilled by the court’s ruling, which upholds the fundamental right to participate in political boycotts,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss. “The government cannot force people to choose between their livelihoods and their First Amendment rights, which is what this law did. Political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest, and they are protected by the First Amendment.”