Federal court rulings for right over wrong happen all too infrequently in America - important to note when they occur.
On Thursday, Kansas District Judge Daniel Crabtree struck down a state law, requiring all state contractors “certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.”
The ruling relates to Kansas math teacher Esther Koonz - barred from renewing her teaching contract for her political beliefs.
She supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.
Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. The law is a flagrant First Amendment violation. Judge Crabtree agreed.
Koonz sought “injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”
She “ask(ed) the court to enjoin enforcement of a Kansas law requiring all persons who enter into a contract with the State of Kansas to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel” - saying it violates her First Amendment and 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
Judge Crabtree called the Kansas law unconstitutional. “It is overinclusive because it…bans political boycotts, which is impermissible,” he said, adding:
“A desire to prevent discrimination against Israeli businesses is an insufficient public interest to overcome the public’s interest in protecting a constitutional right.”
“The court finds that an injunction will serve the public interest.
“(T)he Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”
In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.
Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.
Her Kansas employment contract required a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.
The ACLU represented Koonz, explaining it won an important victory - “the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.”
“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss, representing Koonz
“This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts,” he stressed.
The Kansas law is similar to ones passed by other states. The ACLU said it “does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, but the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this important First Amendment right.
Last July, it wrote congressional members, expressing opposition to proposed legislation, criminalizing support for boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and the settlements.
Sponsors of the legislation “are considering changes,” the ACLU said.