Legislation Targeting Support for Palestinian Human Rights is a Threat to Free Speech

A message from faith communities in the United States (This ad ran in the Kansas City Star on November 7, 2017):  
 
We, the undersigned, are members of faith communities in the United States whose congregations or denominations have adopted resolutions to boycott products made in Israeli settlements—built on occupied Palestinian lands in violation of international law and longstanding official U.S. policy—or have implemented a screen to divest from companies that profit from the 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These resolutions affirm our commitment to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis.
 
We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalizing  participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, and by similar legislation that is proposed in the U.S. Congress. 
 
In August, the Kansas State Department of Education used the state’s anti-BDS legislation to bar a member of the Mennonite church, a math teacher and curriculum coach in Wichita, Kansas, from participating in a program to train other math teachers. This is a dangerous precedent threatening to extend repression of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule by muzzling the right of Americans to free speech. Accordingly, the ACLU has filed suit against the Kansas Commissioner of Education in defense of this school teacher  and her right to boycott.
 
Anti-BDS laws that have already been enacted in several states, and similar legislation that is proposed in Congress effectively penalize actions taken by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the Mennonite Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and other denominations; and tens of thousands of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and secular Americans who support boycotts and divestment aimed at ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. 
 
As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change, from strengthening labor rights for farm workers to ending apartheid in South Africa. As has been warned by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, anti-BDS legislation is an extremely grave attack on free speech that threatens the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions for other peace and human justice causes. 
 
We call on all Americans to join us and the ACLU in defending our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and on our state representatives and members of Congress to reject anti-BDS legislation as an infringement on the rights of American citizens.
 
Signatories and Endorsements:
 
Denominational Signatories: Alliance of Baptists, Presbyterian Church (USA), The United Church of Christ
 
Organizational Signatories: American Friends Service Committee, Israel/Palestine Mission Network (PCUSA), Mennonite Palestine Israel Network, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Quaker Palestine Israel Network, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network, United Methodists for Kairos Response
 
Endorsers: American Muslims for Palestine, Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy, Christians Witnessing for Palestine, Christian-Jewish Allies for a Just Peace in Israel-Palestine, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (Catholic), Deleware Episcopalians for Middle East Peace, Disciples Palestine Israel Network, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network, Freedom2Boycott Maryland, Friends of Sabeel-Colorado, Friends of Sabeel North America, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Interfaith Alliance for Peace in the Holy Land (Tampa Bay, FL), Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, Kairos USA, Middle East Task Force Chicago Presbytery, NorCal Friends of Sabeel, Palestine-Israel Action Group (Ann Arbor Quakers), Palestinian American Christian Advocacy, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, UCC Central Atlantic Conference Palestine Israel Network, United Methodists' Holy Land Task Force (California-Pacific Conference), US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace, Western District Task Force on Israel-Palestine (Mennonite Church USA)
 

Click here to see a PDF of the ad.