The Maryland Chapter of the NLG expressed its opposition to anti-boycott legislation in a February 22 letter to the Maryland General Assembly also signed by Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Center for Constitutional Rights, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, and Palestine Legal.
The letter begins:
We are writing to express our opposition to SB739/HB949. This bill is aimed at suppressing First Amendment protected speech by denying public benefits to those who boycott Israel or “Israeli-controlled territories.” In order to accomplish this goal, the bill would task the Board of Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System with assembling a blacklist of persons engaged in such boycotts. This list is to be based on publicly available information and to be published online. Its definition of “person” explicitly includes “natural persons” and “non government organizations,” meaning that individuals, churches, trade unions, and other civil society groups could wind up on an online blacklist. Such a practice is reminiscent of the worst abuses of the McCarthy Era.
The bill is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whichseeks to use non-violent protest to change Israel’s human rights policies towards the Palestinian people. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of BDS, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution gives all people the right to criticize the policies of both our own government, and that of a foreign government. We recognize that the co-sponsors of SB739/HB949 feel passionately about their opposition to BDS, and that the First Amendment protects those views no less than it protects the views of those who support BDS. The First Amendment, however, prohibits the government from using its power to silence one side of a contentious debate on a matter of public concern.
For more, read the entire letter..