Supreme Court rul­ing up­holds free speech rights

North Penn Life - - OPINION -

A Supreme Court de­ci­sion rightly pre­vents the govern­ment from re­quir­ing cer­tain stances by or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ceiv­ing pub­lic funds.

A U. S. Supreme Court rul­ing June 2T say­ing Congress could not force groups to com­pro­mise their free speech rights in or­der to re­ceive fund­ing sets im­por­tant lim­its on govern­ment power.

Had the rul­ing in this case gone the other way, it’s con­ceiv­able all man­ner of re­quire­ments might be im­posed on those seek­ing sup­port in the fu­ture. We’re glad the court saw the im­por­tance of draw­ing this line in the sand.

At is­sue was a 2003 law passed by Congress re­quir­ing groups work­ing abroad to com­bat HIV and AIDS to adopt anti- prostitution poli­cies. The con­se­quences were sim­ple: No pol­icy, no money.

“This case is not about the govern­ment’s abil­ity to en­list the as­sis­tance of those with whom it al­ready agrees,” wrote Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr. “It is about com­pelling a grant re­cip­i­ent to adopt a par­tic­u­lar be­lief as a con­di­tion of fund­ing.”

The groups that re­ceived the money with strings at­tached ob­jected, say­ing their First Amend­ment rights were be­ing com­pro­mised.

Th­ese are groups that re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant pri­vate fund­ing, but also re­ceive bil­lions through the U. S. pro­gram, in­tended to fight HIV/ AIDS.

The kind of work they do in­cludes ef­forts to limit in­jec­tion drug use in Uzbek­istan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan, re­duce HIV trans­mis­sion from mother to child in Kenya, and pro­mote safe- sex prac­tices in In­dia.

The Al­liance for Open So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional and Pathfinder In­ter­na­tional, which are non- gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­ceived fund­ing, sued the govern­ment.

In the opin­ion, sup­ported by six jus­tices, the court said the govern­ment may at­tach con­di­tions to the way money is spent, but can­not re­quire groups to “pledge al­le­giance” to the fed­eral govern­ment’s view that prostitution ought to be erad­i­cated.

The govern­ment can­not, the court said, at­tempt to lever­age fund­ing to re­strict speech out­side the con­tours of the pro­gram.

It’s an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion that pro­tects free speech rights of or­ga­ni­za­tions get­ting govern­ment fund­ing.

Th­ese groups shouldn’t have to give up their con­sti­tu­tional rights in or­der to get sup­port to help peo­ple who des­per­ately need it.

21st Cen­tury Me­dia News Ser­vice

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