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Marco Rubio’s Attack on Free Speech

Joel Mathis explains why Marco Rubio’s “Combating BDS Act” is an unconstitutional assault on freedom of speech:

You don’t have to weigh the merits of Israeli policy, though, to think Rubio’s bill is bad. The ACLU, for example, is fighting against anti-BDS laws but hasn’t taken a position for or against these boycotts themselves. The argument isn’t about whether such boycotts are good, wise, or just. It’s about whether state, local, and federal governments in the United States should be able to punish people — like an attorney who provides legal services for poor defendants, or a teacher who helps other teachers get ready for the classroom — for making the political decision to boycott something.

Rubio desperately wants to deny that his bill infringes on the First Amendment when it that is what it clearly does. That is why he has started hurling bogus charges of anti-Semitism and making lame excuses that governments should be “free” to refuse to do business with people because of their political views. The senator doesn’t understand or won’t admit that giving a government license to penalize people for holding certain views is an attack on basic constitutional protections. Members of Congress swear to protect and defend the Constitution, but Rubio would prefer to trash the First Amendment in order to pander to “pro-Israel” hard-liners. Protecting the constitutional rights of Americans should always take precedence over shielding a foreign government from the consequences of its actions, and it is a sorry state of affairs when half of the Senate doesn’t know that.

Rubio wants to portray his legislation as a defense of boycotting the boycotters, but our local, state, and federal governments don’t get to do that. A government entity can’t require someone to affirm or renounce particular political views as a condition of employment. A contractor shouldn’t have to sacrifice some of his protected political freedoms in order to work for one of these governments. These laws that penalize supporters of boycotting Israel are an affront to our country’s values and traditions, and it is just a matter of time before they are all struck down.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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