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CAIR Applauds U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen for Principled Testimony, Urges Action to Oppose Unconstitutional Senate Bill

(BALTIMORE, MD, 1/29/19) –  The Maryland Department of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) for his strong and principled position on Senate Bill 1, Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.

SEE: Van Hollen Senate Floor speech on CBA (Combatting BDS Act including in Senate Bill 1)

The pro-Israel bill, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), includes an unconstitutional provision that would provide federal protection to states that pass laws punishing Americans who participate in political boycotts aimed at Israel and its illegal settlements in occupied territories. 

In his impassioned remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, Senator Chris Van Hollen said of the anti-BDS measure:

“I will fiercely defend the constitutional right of any American citizen to express his or her views in such a peaceful way if they so choose. Just as I would support the right of every American to engage in other boycotts to peacefully express their political viewswithout fear of being punished by their government. The Senator from Flordia wants to use the power of the state to punish American citizens who disagree with them on this issue.”

“Senator Van Hollen’s courageous testimony during Tuesday’s debate on the Senate floor is a reminder of what it’s like to have lawmakers who are truly dedicated to fighting for the rights and interests of the American people,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “We thank him for championing First Amendment free speech rights, and also unequivocally advocating for Palestinian human rights  on behalf of a community whose voice is too seldom represented in the halls and rooms of power.” 

Senator Van Hollen described the “patently unconstitutional” Senate bill as “state-sponsored discrimination against disfavored political dissent” and also called for a halt to illegal settlements in the West Bank, citing that they undermine efforts to achieve peace. 

At least 26 states have passed unconstitutional anti-BDS measures requiring entities to sign loyalty oaths to Israel before they can be eligible to contract with the state. 

Earlier this month, CAIR filed the sixth lawsuit of its kind in a Maryland federal court on behalf of Plaintiff Saqib Ali, challenging Governor Hogan’s anti-BDS Executive Order in the state. 

SEE: CAIR sues Gov. Hogan over free speech, Claims law prevents boycotts against Israel

CAIR, ACLU of Maryland and Freedom to Boycott, Maryland Chapter later published a joint opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun urging Governor Hogan to rescind the unconstitutional order in its entirety.

SEE: Md. lawsuit: Punishing companies for boycotting Israel violates First Amendment rights

Senator Van Hollen referenced the Maryland anti-BDS lawsuit in his remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday. CAIR has provided an action alert urging congress to vote against this violation of the First Amendment. 

CAIR ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Protect Free Speech, Oppose Unconstitutional Anti-BDS Bill

You can also call your Senators by contacting the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Be sure that you mention your opposition to the bill and that you are a constituent of their state. 

The civil rights organization is urging constituents to tweet @ChrisVanHollen to thank him for taking a principled and courageous position on this issue. 

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.

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CONTACT: CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry,, 410-971-6062

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