Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Can government "compel speech" for political purposes as a condition of funding? Take it personally

Can the federal government require an organization (or a person) espouse a particular position on an issue before receiving funds?  I hope not.
But, according to an editorial in the New York Times on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, that seems to be the case. The piece, on p. A20, is titled “Free Speech and the Anti-Prostitution Pledge: The government cannot compel organizations to espouse its views in exchange for financing”, link here

 At issue is the 2003 “United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDSS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act. The act requires recipients of aid to have a “policy explicitly opposing prostitution”.

The Second Circuit had ruled in 2011 that the provision requiring proactive advocacy actually compels or coerces speech.  At the same time, the Supreme Court has argued that federal fund recipients can be prevented from making certain arguments, as with abortion.

The case is “Agency for International Development et al” v. “Alliance for Open Society International”, with oral argument transcript from April 22 here
On a personal level, it seems like pressure to join someone else’s cause and speak for them is often rather high, and it is objectionable.  


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