Yesterday, February 5th, 2019, the United States Senate took the bait. Our elected representatives voted, by a majority of 77 to 23, to reinforce state and local laws — already on the books or pending in 39 U.S. states — rolling back the freedom of speech and freedom of conscience supposedly enjoyed by every American citizen. No one should take comfort that these manifestly unconstitutional, repressive measures pertain only to one particular facet of public discourse: criticism of the State of Israel via BDS activity.
The New York Times reported on the lopsided Senate vote, saying in part:
“It is designed to see that the B.D.S. is tamped down and is not appropriate to use against our friend, Israel,” said Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Some senators, including Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, and Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, refused to support the bill, citing concerns raised by activist groups that the provision was an unconstitutional stifling of their right to protest.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the lone Republican opposing the bill, delivered an impassioned denunciation on Tuesday. “The founding fathers would roll over in their graves if they knew what we were doing today,” he said, adding that the Boston Tea Party was political speech in the form of a boycott.
“Free speech, the First Amendment, is about allowing language you don’t like,” Mr. Paul said. “It’s about allowing boycotts you may not like.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also upbraided the legislation, saying in a statement that “the Senate chose politics over the Constitution and trampled on the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”
The full NYT story is HERE.
For my recent post on the wider issues involved, and their implications (including many links to background pieces and other resources), see HERE.