Arkansas’s Anti-Boycott Law Violates the First Amendment

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On February 12, 2021 the 8th Circuit of Appeals ruled that Arkansas’s anti-boycott law targeting supporters of Palestinian human rights violated the First Amendment. The challenge was brought by the Arkansas Times.  The newspaper that takes no position on Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) for Palestinian human rights, but was horrified that they were required to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel in order to accept advertisements from Pulaski Technical College  Initially, a district court rejected their claim, finding boycotts of Israel were not expressive activity covered by the First Amendment.

However, this decision was an outlier. Every other court, including district courts in Texas, Kansas, and Arizona, who have heard challenges to anti-BDS laws found they likely violated the First Amendment. The 8th Circuit has now found similarly, overturning the district court’s decision. 

“Since the very first anti-BDS bill was proposed, Defending Rights & Dissent has argued such legislation was flagrantly in violation of our First Amendment. The 8th Circuit, like a number of courts before it, have affirmed what Defending Rights & Dissent has always argued. Political boycotts are not only a core form of First Amendment protected speech, they are a time honored tool of social change. Lawmakers must cease trying to rob the people of their ability to fight for social change and should instead uphold the First Amendment,” said Defending Rights & Dissent policy director Chip Gibbons.