The American Civil Liberties Union will be in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals tomorrow for the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Arkansas Times, challenging an Arkansas law conditioning government contracts on signing an oath not to boycott Israel or Israeli settlements. The Times was impacted because of government entities’ advertising contracts.
Federal Judge Brian Miller found in January that the state of Arkansas may legally refuse to do business with the Arkansas Times if the publication refuses to sign the oath as a matter of principle. Such laws were blocked in lawsuits in three other states, but Miller went the other way on the Arkansas law.
The ACLU appealed, and arguments are now set for tomorrow at 9 a.m. Here’s the ACLU’s brief appealing Miller’s ruling.
The Times does does not boycott Israel and has not editorialized on that issue, but as publisher Alan Leveritt put it, “the idea that the state would force a publishing company to take a political position in return for business was offensive.”
From the ACLU’s press release:
The ACLU has successfully challenged similar anti-boycott laws in three states, and has repeatedly advocated against efforts by Congress to pass similar measures at the federal level. A recent Brookings poll found that 72 percent of Americans oppose laws seeking to stifle boycotts of Israel on the grounds that they restrict free expression.
The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of Israel, but has long defended the First Amendment right to boycott.
“As three federal courts have now ruled, laws suppressing boycotts of Israel are unconstitutional,” said ACLU staff attorney Brian Hauss, who will argue the case on behalf of the Arkansas Times tomorrow. “No one — let alone a newspaper — should be forced to give up their First Amendments rights in order to do business with the state.”