Free Speech Press Release

11.30.16

Anti-Boycott Legislation Violates Free Speech Rights, Says ACLU

Free Speech

COLUMBUS—The ACLU of Ohio is urging legislators to prevent the passage of House Bill 476, also known as the anti-boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) bill. HB 476, a bill which forbids any contract between the State of Ohio and a business entity that boycotts or divests from Israel, passed the through the Ohio House and is on its way to the Senate. This bill is an unwarranted attack on First Amendment rights as it severely restricts free speech based on political beliefs.

“On its face, HB 476 is simple, but the ramifications are far-reaching, troublesome, and potentially unconstitutional,” said Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist at the ACLU of Ohio. “This legislation places zero limits on what types of policies, laws or actions of the Israeli government are subject to this boycott ban. This could have broad implications for those who wish to divest for economic reasons such as new tariffs or boycott based on their political beliefs.”

HB 476 has an incredibly broad reach and is possibly one of the most expansive Anti-BDS bills in the country. The law would apply beyond businesses controlled by the Israeli government and include private corporations and even foreign businesses with a franchise location or office in Israel. It also applies to businesses who are not located in Ohio as long as they want to contract with the State of Ohio.

“We are deeply concerned that if this bill passes it will only be a matter of time before we see these conditions on businesses involving other countries,” said Daniels. “Not only could HB 476 be used to expand boycotts of more countries, but it opens a Pandora’s Box for depriving contracts to corporations that have taken other political positions.”

The ACLU of Ohio will monitor the status of HB 476 to protect Ohioan’s First Amendment rights and ensure that Ohio cannot treat them differently based on their political beliefs.

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Read our testimony opposing House Bill 476.