Tell Congress to Drop 'BDS' Bill Restricting Academic Freedom, Free Speech

reps-Lipinski-Roskam(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/7/14) -- Yesterday, an unconstitutional bill was introduced in Congress designed to limit academic freedom and the free speech rights of American universities and student groups participating in the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

CAIR is urging American Muslims and all others who value constitutional protections to contact their elected representatives and request that they oppose the bill.

The BDS campaign seeks an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, equality and justice for the Palestinian people and the right of return guaranteed Palestinian refugees by United Nations resolutions.

Illinois Representatives Dan Lipinski (D) and Peter Roskam (R) introduced the misleadingly-titled Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009), which would unconstitutionally block any American university from receiving any federal "funds or any other form of financial assistance," if:

"[The] institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel."

SEE: Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009)

The bill is said to be a response to the American Studies Association's recent decision to participate in the international BDS movement by shunning Israeli academic institutions and scholars. Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned of more boycotts taking place if current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail.

SEE: ASA Members Vote To Endorse Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

"It is clearly unconstitutional for members of Congress to attempt to legislate against political viewpoints with which they disagree," said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw. "The same peaceful method of political activism has been used to challenge injustice in America and worldwide, including against one of the greatest forms of injustice in our time -- Apartheid."

McCaw noted that Americans have engaged in political boycotts since the nation's founding. He cited the colonial American boycott of British tea imports and the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the civil rights era.

"This bill would unlawfully limit the First Amendment free speech rights of American universities and student groups that decide to participate in the BDS movement," said McCaw. 

Jewish groups have also gone on the record to criticize such legislation. 

Major Jewish Groups Won't Back Boycott Bill

CAIR has provided a "click and send" letter for all Americans to call on Congress to reject the Protect Academic Freedom Act and support the academic freedom and free speech rights of American universities and student groups that engage in political boycotts of any kind.

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