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Rights Groups Urge Court To Strike Down Unconstitutional Texas Law

Above Photo: 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Targets BDS Movement.

A Texas Law Denying State Contracts To Companies That Support Boycotts For Palestinian Freedom Is Unconstitutional And Should Be Struck Down, Civil Rights Groups Argued In A Friend-Of-The-Court Brief Filed Wednesday.

The Center For Constitutional Rights And Palestine Legal Filed An Amicus Brief In The Fifth Circuit Court Of Appeals In Support Of A Lawsuit Seeking To Strike Down A Texas Law That Requires Government Contractors To Pledge Not To Engage In Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions (BDS) Campaigns For Palestinian Rights.

After A Court Blocked An Earlier Version Of Texas’s Anti-Boycott Law Following Lawsuits From Individuals With State Contracts, Texas Amended The Law To Exclude Companies With 9 Or Fewer Full-Time Employees And Contracts Under $100,000. While The Revised Law Mooted The Previous Lawsuits, Its Underlying First Amendment Challenges Remained.

The Center For Constitutional Rights And Palestine Legal’s Brief States That The New Texas Law Still Violates The First Amendment And Unconstitutionally Targets Protected Political Speech In Support Of Palestinian Human Rights.

The Brief Supports A November 2021 Lawsuit Brought By The Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) On Behalf Of A&R Engineering, A Company Owned By Rasmy Hassouna, A Houston-Based Engineer Originally From The Gaza Strip.  A&R Engineering Contracts With The State, And Mr. Hassouna Refuses To Sign What Is Effectively An Israel Loyalty Oath.

A Federal Judge Ruled In Favor Of Mr. Hassouna’s Company In January 2022, Blocking Enforcement Of The Revised Law.

“Texas Has Again Explicitly Stated That The Purpose Of The Amended Law…Is To Punish Entities Who Engage In BDS By Denying Them Government Contracts…,” The Brief Explains. “The Constitution Does Not Permit The Government To Use Its Power To Punish Entities Seeking To Change An Unjust Social Order By Engaging In Boycotts Directed At A Government Engaged In Discriminatory And Other Unlawful Conduct.”

The Brief Situates The Texas Law As Part Of A Broader Effort To Suppress Speech In Support Of Palestinian Rights.

Texas’s History Of Targeting Palestine Advocacy

In 2017, Texas Passed A Law Requiring Anyone Who Contracts With The State To Sign A Pledge That They Do Not And Will Not Boycott Israel In Order To Get Paid ****For Their Services.

In 2018, Elementary School Speech Pathologist Bahia Amawi Made Headlines After She Was Unable To Renew Her Contract Because She Refused To Sign A Pledge That She Would Not Boycott Israel. Ms. Amawi And Several Other Texans Sued The State For Violating Their First Amendment Rights, In Lawsuits Brought By The ACLU And CAIR.

In A Joint Decision On The Lawsuits, A Federal Judge Blocked Enforcement Of The Law In April 2019, Citing First Amendment Concerns.

Texas Responded By Filing An Appeal And Passing The Amended Law Under Current Consideration To Exclude The Plaintiffs By Focusing On Companies With 10 Or More Employees And Contracts Greater Than $100,000.

Raising The Threshold For The Law’s Application Does Not Make The Measure Constitutional.

A Broader Campaign To Silence The Movement

The Brief Describes How These Laws Fit Into A Broader Campaign Seeking To Silence The Movement For Palestinian Rights – And How These Laws Are Often Misused To Chill Even More Speech Than They Initially Target.

Palestine Legal And The Center For Constitutional Rights Have Documented Censorship Efforts On College Campuses, Against Public Libraries, And At Other Institutions. Advocates For Palestinian Rights Have Lost Jobs And Incomes, Been Punished, And Faced Harassment For Their Advocacy.

From 2014-2021, Palestine Legal Responded To Nearly 2,000 Incidents Of Censorship, Punishment, And Other Burdening Of Advocacy For Palestinian Rights.

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