CAIR Urges Eighth Circuit to Strike Down Arkansas’ Anti-BDS Law As Violating The First Amendment

Nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization files amicus brief to support Arkansas Times’ First Amendment challenge

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/16/2019) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced the filing of an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

CAIR, along with client Bahia Amawi, filed in support of the Arkansas Times’ First Amendment challenge to Arkansas’ anti-BDS law. 

READ CAIR’s Amicus Brief

CAIR represents Bahia Amawi in a similar First Amendment challenge to Texas’ anti-BDS law.  Bahia Amawi is a speech language pathologist who performs bilingual assessments for Arabic-speaking elementary school students.  Last fall, she lost her contract with a Texas public school district because she refused to sign the new “No Boycott of Israel” clause.  A hearing on her case was held on March 29, 2019 in Austin and a decision could issue at any time.

SEE:  CAIR Files Motion to Enjoin Texas Anti-BDS Act as Unconstitutional

SEE: Dozens show up to support woman challenging anti-Israel boycott law (Statesman)

Arkansas is one of 26 states which in recent years have passed laws targeted at punishing the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which supports Palestinian human rights. Two federal courts ruled in 2018 that the Arizona and Kansas versions of these laws are unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment. 

CAIR has also challenged anti-BDS laws in Maryland and Arizona.  But in January, an Arkansas federal district court split from the Arizona and Kansas courts and concluded that “A boycott of Israel…is neither speech nor inherently expressive conduct.” 

The Arkansas Times, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, appealed to the Eighth Circuit.  CAIR supports the appeal. As explained by CAIR’s amicus brief, “Political speech and political consumer boycotts are fully protected by the First Amendment…Arkansas’ law is even more egregious than other states’ because it permits contractors’ political speech against Israel, but only if the speaker agrees to pay a 20 percent penalty.”

“Every American should be concerned about state laws that impose financial penalties based on individuals’ political viewpoints,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena F. Masri. 

“The structure of the Arkansas anti-BDS Act makes it clear that Arkansas does not care about the details of contractors’ economic transactions with Israel, it only cares about suppressing speech that criticizes Israel,” said CAIR Trial Attorney Carolyn Homer.  “That violates the First Amendment.”

Community members who have been affected by “No Boycott of Israel” laws or contractual provisions in any state are urged to contact CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by visiting https://www.cair.com/report

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

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CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri, 248-390-9784, lmasri@cair.com; CAIR Trial Attorney Carolyn Homer, 202-516-4724, chomer@cair.com; CAIR Strategic Communications Manager Arsalan Bukhari, 206-931-3655, abukhari@cair.com

 

 


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