ACLU Slams Houston Suburb for Withholding Hurricane Relief to Anyone Boycotting Israel

Geneva Matthews
October 23, 2017

Civil liberties advocates are denouncing a decision by a Texas city to require applicants for Hurricane Harvey rebuilding funds to sign a statement certifying that they are not now boycotting Israel, and will not participate future protests.

A website for the city of Dickinson allows individuals and businesses to apply for grants from funds donated after the hurricane that dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some part of the state.

Although the hurricane devastated the entire Houston metro area with record rainfall and destructive flooding, a local television news station reported in early September that "damage in Dickinson may be the worst of Harvey", with more than 7,000 homes and 88 businesses "significantly damaged".

"By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement", the application reads at the very bottom.

"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government can not condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression", said ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura.

Dickinson City Management assistant Bryan Milward attributed the clause to a state law, signed in May, that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel. "Anybody who is forced to sign the certification regarding their First Amendment protected beliefs, expression, and association has had their constitutional rights violated regardless of whether or not they're engaged in the underlying activity or whether or not they're going to be penalized for participating in it", Hauss told Bustle.

Because the Texas law was enacted recently, it is not yet clear how the state or cities will enforce the anti-BDS measure.

Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the bill in May, hailing Israel as number one trading partner in the U.S.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has already decided that boycotts are a form of free speech".

If you're a resident of a small Texas city and in need of hurricane recovery funds, you'll have to certify that you're not boycotting Israel. She stressed the state was only following State law. This law professor from Northwestern University helped out on Texas' anti-BDS bill. Kallinen said when it comes to individuals, there may be questions about how the law is interpreted.

Bustle's request for comment was not returned by Texas Gov. Abbott.

Other reports by VideoGamingPros

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