Hurricane Relief Applicants in Texas Town Ordered to Promise They Won't Boycott Israel

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In one of the areas of Texas worst hit by Hurricane Harvey, applicants for relief grants are being asked to promise they won’t boycott Israel, a clause that free speech advocates say is unconstitutional.

To apply for a Hurricane Harvey Relief Grant from the city of Dickinson, Texas, the application posted on the city’s website contains a clause with the subtitle “Verification not to Boycott Israel.” It requires applicants to affirm they do not currently support the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, and will not during the duration of the agreement.


The city contends that they’re just trying to comply with House Bill 89, an anti-BDS bill that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in May, which mandates the state not contract with businesses that boycott Israel.

But the ACLU says the move is an egregious effort to limit residents’ right to free speech.

“The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression,” ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement Thursday evening. “Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”


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