WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Wednesday that it has filed a legal challenge against a law in Texas that prohibits state contractors from boycotting Israel or its settlements in the West Bank. The lawsuit was filed by the organization on behalf of four Texas citizens who had either lost their jobs because of the law, or were “forced” to sign it against their beliefs in order not to lose their income.
The ACLU claims that the anti-boycott law in Texas, which went into effect last year, violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An attorney for the organization explained on Wednesday that “whatever you may think about boycotts of Israel, the bottom line is that political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest. The state cannot use the contracting process as an ideological litmus test or to tell people what kind of causes they may or may not support.” The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of Israel, but it supports the principle that politically motivated boycotts are a protected form of speech.
The Texas law being challenged by the ACLU made headlines earlier this week after The Intercept reported that a speech therapist at an elementary school lost her job after she refused to sign a pledge that she doesn’t support boycotts of Israel or “Israeli controlled territories.” The law doesn’t make any distinction between Israel as a country and the settlements it has built in the West Bank since 1967. The speech therapist is filing a separate lawsuit from the one brought forward by the ACLU.
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Last year, the same Texas law caused uproar after citizens who sought relief from hurricane damages were asked to sign a pledge that they oppose boycotts of Israel. At the time, state officials said the law was misinterpreted by local authorities. Over the past year, federal courts have frozen the implementation of two similar laws in Arizona and Kansas, because of constitutional concerns. In Kansas, the law was amended in order to ensure that it will affect only companies, not individual citizens.