Want Storm Relief in Texas Town? Pledge Fealty to Israel


It was one of the hardest areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, but a clause in a grant application has many asking questions in the city of Dickinson. But then the application asks the applicant to pledge they won't boycott Israel. Meaning it's unclear if any Dickinson residents have reached out to the ACLU about having been denied benefits or about filing a lawsuit against the city.

"The First Amendment protects Americans" right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", said ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura in a statement. Those kinds of ideological litmus test went out of vogue with the McCarthy-era loyalty oaths that the ACLU fought against in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Texas and several other states, though, already have laws on the books that prohibit the state from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

"I am proud to have commemorated Israel's Independence Day by signing into law Anti-BDS legislation in Texas", said Governor Abbott.

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The city attorney defended the clause, saying it followed a recently passed state law that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.

The law that Olsen mentions is known as the Anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions law (Anti-BDS).

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Rights groups, including the ACLU, similarly slammed the city of Dickinson's decision as a violation of free speech. "These laws have been popping up over the past few years as part of what we view as a sustained legislative assault on the right to boycott", Hauss told Bustle. In defending similar laws, he said there is a distinction between expressive speech vs. the regulation of commercial conduct. "In terms of enforcement, what I think is really pernicious about these laws is they're created to scare people", Hauss told Bustle. "You can not premise disaster relief acceptance upon agreeing to not boycott someone", he continued. "First Amendment rights", Strauss said. Messages seeking additional comment from Olson were not immediately returned early Friday.