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Faith-Based Organizations Condemn Congressional Attempts to Suppress Constitutionally-Protected Right to Boycott


Jan 28, 2019

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In the face of mounting pressure from members of Congress who wish to suppress grassroots support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights, 15 faith-based organizations condemn the S.1 bill (Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019) being voted on today by the Senate. (See here for full statement and list of organizations.)

A provision of S.1, the Combating BDS Act of 2019, is intended to provide cover to some two-dozen states that have passed laws that penalize Americans who participate in boycotts in protest of Israeli human rights abuses. As has been noted by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, such anti-BDS legislation violates the First Amendment right of Americans to engage in boycotts and effectively penalizes decisions taken by denominations that collectively represent millions of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Americans who support the use of time-honored economic tools such as boycotts and divestment to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Judges in Kansas and Arizona have already ruled that anti-BDS laws in those states are unconstitutional.

Faith leaders have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment to advance justice and peace and are now calling on the public to urge their representatives to reject anti-BDS legislation as an infringement on their rights. 

"Already we have seen people of faith robbed of employment due to state-level anti-BDS laws. These state laws have been scrutinized because federal courts recognize their unconstitutionality. Likewise, S.1 invites the U.S. Senate to rob our denominations, church members, and all Americans of First Amendment free speech protection for political boycotts. Rather than curtailing our free speech and demonizing acts of religious conscience engaged by mainstream  Americans in and beyond the churches, the Senate should be protecting us from this assault on fundamental rights,” said Rev. Diane Dulin, pastor(ret) of the United Church of Christ, and Friends of Sabeel North America Clergy and Seminary Action Council Co-Convener.

"Boycotts have been a core tactic to justice movements, from the Civil Rights Movement to the anti-Apartheid struggle to the movement for justice in Palestine. Anti-BDS legislation like this S-1 bill compromises our right to protest, and as people of faith, to act on our responsibility to struggle in solidarity with those most oppressed." - Tarek Abuata, Friends of Sabeel North America, Executive Director.

Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) is a U.S.-based, non-profit organization of Christian advocates for Palestine seeking justice for Palestinians through nonviolent advocacy and education.