Letter: No American should be willing to chip away at our 1st Amendment rights
Democrats of the Red Rocks (DORR) opposes H.R. 1697, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. This bill violates free speech rights protected under the 1St Amendment. We take no position, either pro or anti a boycott.
The right to boycott is recognized and protected as free speech under the 1st Amendment. Boycotts have a long tradition of use in civil rights struggles both in the United States and abroad (e.g. the Montgomery bus boycott; the lettuce boycott led by Cesar Chavez and the boycott against apartheid South Africa).
H.R. 1697, however, proposes punishing people not just for commercial acts, but rather for their political beliefs. It would expose individuals who heed the call of international governmental organizations (such as the UN or EU) to boycott. Proposed sanctions include up to 20 years in prison, and civil fines of up to $250,000.
As this aspect of the bill has become known, U.S. legislators are removing their names from co-sponsorship. Sponsors of the Act are now considering removing criminal sanctions, but even civil sanctions chill the right to engage in constitutionally protected speech.
Again, we take no position, pro or con to a boycott in this situation. Rational minds can take different positions on this issue, however no American, should be willing to chip away at our 1st Amendment rights by criminalizing the right to boycott.
President of the Board of Directors
On behalf of Democrats of the Red Rocks