D028 Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott

Original version

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church urge the President and the Congress of the United States to reject legislation that would penalize companies and organizations for their participation in nonviolent boycotts on behalf of Palestinian human rights as such legislation, at both federal and state levels, would be an infringement on First Amendment rights, based on the Supreme Court's consistent definition of boycotts as protected speech; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention instruct the Office of Government Relations in Washington to inform legislators of our Church's opposition to the anti-boycott legislation pending in Congress as an infringement on the First Amendment right of free speech, and should such legislation become law, now or in the future, the Convention directs the Executive Council or the Presiding Bishop to file an amicus brief in support of court challenges to the law.

Explanation

Opponents of the boycotts movement have sought state and federal legislation that would label support for such measures anti-Semitic and would penalize supportive companies and organizations and, in some instances, individuals with fines and the loss of state contracts and assistance. At least twenty three states have passed such legislation or adopted it by executive order. Federal legislation is currently pending.
Whatever one's stance on boycotts, everyone has a right to express their opinions and act accordingly. Boycotts as nonviolent political actions are an American tradition, with roots extending to the pre-Revolutionary boycott of British tea. As far back as the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court has consistently considered boycotts protected speech under the First Amendment. Some examples of effective boycotts include the 1965-66 grape boycott in the Central Valley that birthed the UFW, the South Africa boycott which The Episcopal Church supported (Res. 1985-D073) in 1985, and, most recently, the boycott of North Carolina stemming from its anti-LGBT legislation.
Furthermore, The Episcopal Church affirmed in Res. 1991-D122 that legitimate criticisms of Israeli government policies and actions are not anti-Semitic. This Church differentiates the use of nonviolent tactics, such as economic pressure on behalf of universal human rights, from the current resurgence of hate-speech and actions that demonize entire communities: Jewish, Muslim, African-American, Native American, LBGT or any other group. This Church unequivocally condemns all hate-speech and actions.
The current anti-boycott legislation at the state and federal levels is opposed by, among others, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. In November, 2017, twelve of The Episcopal Church's ecumenical partner churches and twenty-eight activist organizations released a public letter calling the anti-boycott legislation pending in Congress and in state legislatures “a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights,” and pledged to defend the right of churches and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.
Any legislation that suppresses legitimate criticism of public policy, and that restricts freedom of expression and the ability to exercise public witness through boycotts or investment and selective purchasing practices violates the U.S. Constitution. While the Church and its members may not be of one mind about which measures are most effective, the Church must collectively affirm and defend the right of individuals, congregations and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine relations.


Opponents of the boycotts movement have sought state and federal legislation that would label support for such measures anti-Semitic and would penalize supportive companies and organizations and, in some instances, individuals with fines and the loss of state contracts and assistance. At least twenty three states have passed such legislation or adopted it by executive order. Federal legislation is currently pending.
Whatever one's stance on boycotts, everyone has a right to express their opinions and act accordingly. Boycotts as nonviolent political actions are an American tradition, with roots extending to the pre-Revolutionary boycott of British tea. As far back as the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court has consistently considered boycotts protected speech under the First Amendment. Some examples of effective boycotts include the 1965-66 grape boycott in the Central Valley that birthed the UFW, the South Africa boycott which The Episcopal Church supported (Res. 1985-D073) in 1985, and, most recently, the boycott of North Carolina stemming from its anti-LGBT legislation.
Furthermore, The Episcopal Church affirmed in Res. 1991-D122 that legitimate criticisms of Israeli government policies and actions are not anti-Semitic. This Church differentiates the use of nonviolent tactics, such as economic pressure on behalf of universal human rights, from the current resurgence of hate-speech and actions that demonize entire communities: Jewish, Muslim, African-American, Native American, LBGT or any other group. This Church unequivocally condemns all hate-speech and actions.
The current anti-boycott legislation at the state and federal levels is opposed by, among others, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. In November, 2017, twelve of The Episcopal Church's ecumenical partner churches and twenty-eight activist organizations released a public letter calling the anti-boycott legislation pending in Congress and in state legislatures “a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights,” and pledged to defend the right of churches and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.
Any legislation that suppresses legitimate criticism of public policy, and that restricts freedom of expression and the ability to exercise public witness through boycotts or investment and selective purchasing practices violates the U.S. Constitution. While the Church and its members may not be of one mind about which measures are most effective, the Church must collectively affirm and defend the right of individuals, congregations and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine relations.


Opponents of the boycotts movement have sought state and federal legislation that would label support for such measures anti-Semitic and would penalize supportive companies and organizations and, in some instances, individuals with fines and the loss of state contracts and assistance. At least twenty three states have passed such legislation or adopted it by executive order. Federal legislation is currently pending.
Whatever one's stance on boycotts, everyone has a right to express their opinions and act accordingly. Boycotts as nonviolent political actions are an American tradition, with roots extending to the pre-Revolutionary boycott of British tea. As far back as the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court has consistently considered boycotts protected speech under the First Amendment. Some examples of effective boycotts include the 1965-66 grape boycott in the Central Valley that birthed the UFW, the South Africa boycott which The Episcopal Church supported (Res. 1985-D073) in 1985, and, most recently, the boycott of North Carolina stemming from its anti-LGBT legislation.
Furthermore, The Episcopal Church affirmed in Res. 1991-D122 that legitimate criticisms of Israeli government policies and actions are not anti-Semitic. This Church differentiates the use of nonviolent tactics, such as economic pressure on behalf of universal human rights, from the current resurgence of hate-speech and actions that demonize entire communities: Jewish, Muslim, African-American, Native American, LBGT or any other group. This Church unequivocally condemns all hate-speech and actions.
The current anti-boycott legislation at the state and federal levels is opposed by, among others, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. In November, 2017, twelve of The Episcopal Church's ecumenical partner churches and twenty-eight activist organizations released a public letter calling the anti-boycott legislation pending in Congress and in state legislatures “a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights,” and pledged to defend the right of churches and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.
Any legislation that suppresses legitimate criticism of public policy, and that restricts freedom of expression and the ability to exercise public witness through boycotts or investment and selective purchasing practices violates the U.S. Constitution. While the Church and its members may not be of one mind about which measures are most effective, the Church must collectively affirm and defend the right of individuals, congregations and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine relations.


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