ACLU Sues Over Kansas Law Against Boycotts Of Israel

Palestine solidarity protesters supporting the BDS movement 2010

Palestine solidarity protesters supporting the BDS movement 2010

Under the law, state contractors are required to sign a statement affirming that they do not engage in boycotts - a constitutionally protected right.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to challenge a Kansas law that requires any company or individual who contracts with the state to sign a statement certifying that they are not actively engaged in boycotting Israel. The law took effect July 1, 2017. "From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, boycotts have been integral to the movements for justice that have made this country and world a freer, more just, and more equitable place".

The lawsuit could have sweeing consequences nationally. The state requires written certification from service, supply, IT and construction contractors that they aren't boycotting the Jewish state.

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During open session this year when the bill was on the floor of the Kansas House, Rep. William Sutton, R-Gardner, said: "It's in the best interest of Kansas to continue our strong partnership with Israel".

In July, the ACLU sent a letter to Congress opposing the congressional proposal, and according to the group, "as a result, Senate sponsors of the bill are considering changes". The Israel Anti-Boycott Act seeks to imprison United States persons for 20 years and fine them $1 million for advancing the goals of or even furnishing information related to a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlement products called for by an worldwide organization.

The ACLU is representing Esther Koontz, a curriculum coach at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita.

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The law, in effect since 1 July, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are "not now engaged in a boycott of Israel".

After a presentation about Israeli treatment of Palestinians to her Mennonite Church congegration, Koontz is not buying products made by Israeli companies and global companies operating in Israeli settlements in occupied territories, according to the legal complaint.

According to the ACLU, "The state of Kansas is penalizing our client, and others like her, because it disapproves of her political beliefs, associations, and expression", a blatant violation of the First Amendment.

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"I'm disappointed that I can't be a math trainer for the state of Kansas because of my political views about human rights across the globe", said Koontz.

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