A full-page statement was published today in The Kansas City Star on behalf of the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, and dozens of other faith organizations of various denominations. The statement defends the First Amendment right of Americans to use boycotts and other economic acts of conscience to protest Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law. The statement comes a day after 20 Christian leaders representing 17 faith-based organizations sent a letter opposing the so-called Israel Anti-Boycott Act to all members of Congress
Over the past several years, a series of laws intended to suppress boycotts related to Israeli human rights abuses have been passed in Congress and in some two dozen states across the country. Civil liberties groups like the ACLU have warned that these laws are unconstitutional and pose a serious threat to the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and the right of all Americans to boycott. The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas in the first major legal challenge to these laws after a member of the Mennonite Church was prevented from working as a teacher on a state contract because she supports boycotts in support of Palestinian rights.
The statement in The Kansas City Star reads in part:
“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… As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace.”
In recent years, a growing number of Americans, including mainline Christian denominations like the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Mennonite Church USA, have adopted boycotts and other economic tools in support of Palestinians struggling peacefully for their freedom from Israel’s oppressive, 50-year-old military occupation regime. As the statement notes, Americans have a long and honorable tradition of using boycotts in support of social justice and human rights causes, from the Civil Rights movement, to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, to attempts to protect the rights of immigrants, people of color, and others whose rights are threatened today. There should be no free speech exception for Americans who support Palestinian rights and freedom.
With this statement of support, justice and peace advocates from major faith groups across the United States have come together in a historic show of unity to stand for the right to boycott as a form of Constitutionally recognized free speech. Said Tarek Abuata, Executive Director of FOSNA, “We unequivocally oppose any attempts by our state or federal governments to deny us the opportunity to express our faith-inspired convictions that Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of longstanding official U.S. policy and international law, its destruction of Palestinian homes, severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, and other human rights abuses are morally wrong and a major impediment to peace.”
We will continue to stand in support of those being targeted with unjust laws for acting according to their conscience, and we will continue standing in support of Palestinians struggling for freedom, justice, and equality.