Guest Commentary: Affirming Our First Amendment Right to Boycott

Statement by the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, Md.: 

As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. As Americans, we are aware that the First Amendment squarely protects the right to boycott. Lately, a legislative assault on these values and rights has been spreading through the United States. For example, in Maryland:

* Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order in October 2017 that prohibits the state from doing business with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel.

* U.S. Senator Ben Cardin authored a bill (S. 720) that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine.

The bills and laws, in at least 20 states as well as the U.S. Senate, vary in numerous respects, but they share a common goal of scaring people away from participating in protests against Israeli government policies, including protests known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. Regardless of what one thinks of the merits of this particular boycott, these attacks on our First Amendment right to boycott are unconstitutional and cannot be tolerated.

In a landmark 1982 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi (a boycott to protest segregation and racial injustice) was a protected form of free association and free expression. As the court recognized, political boycotts empower individuals to collectively express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and advocate for political, social, and economic change. These are precisely the freedoms the Constitution is meant to protect.

We call upon Senator Cardin and Governor Hogan to rescind their respective actions.


  • Ah, the swastika Leftists show themselves for the Jew-haters that they are, and have always been. And if Unitarians want to not patronize businesses connected to Israel, they should be allowed to (and I suspect they still are) and allowed to be the anti-Semites that they clearly are, and boycott the only Jewish nation in the world. But government bodies such as the state government should not boycott the nation, or any businesses connected to our STRONGEST ALLY IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE ONLY DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST !! Do these morons boycott Saudi Arabia or any other countries to which no one holding an Israeli passport can even travel ?? And which practice acts of barbarism like female genital mutiliation and throwing homosexuals off rooftops to ther death ? No. Just the JEWS are apparently worthy of their desire to boycott. These leftist lunatics have truly gone around the bend and are proving how dangerous THEY are. THEY ARE THE NAZIS, just as the Left has always been. Any Jewish members of this evil “church” REALLY NEED TO HAVE THEIR HEADS EXAMINED !

  • Did the authors of this statement or the members of this congregation bother to do any research – or at least to read the two legal actions they linked in their own statement?

    Governer Hogan explained clearly that the issue here is two-fold – 1 – it is unsafe business practice for the state to engage with these companies, and second this particular boycott is understood to be an act of discrimination:

    Senator Cardin opens his bill clearly stating that this is an amendment to a bill passed in the 1970s prohibiting boycotts against American allies:
    “To amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to include in the prohibi-
    tions on boycotts against allies of the United States boycotts fostered
    by international governmental organizations against Israel and to direct
    the Export-Import Bank of the United States to oppose boycotts against
    Israel, and for other purposes. ”

    If they wish to discuss the merits of BDS, go ahead and do so, but please don’t decry legal actions by misrepresenting them.

    • 1) Larry Hogan never said it was an unsafe business practice. That doesn’t even make sense. Unsafe for who?
      2) Larry Hogan understands BDS to be an act of discrimination. But he is wrong. There are innumerable political boycotts. How is this one discriminatory while the others aren’t? And anyway, even if he is right, that is protected under the First Amendment.
      3) So what if Cardin claims his bill amends a previous law? How is that relevant to its constitutionality? It’s not.

      • 1) It’s amazes me that you can respond so viciously without bothering to read what Governer Hogan wrote. The bottom of the first page and top of the second page state it explicitly. (Several other lines indicate it, but those state it explicitly.) If you want to discuss the sensibility of those statements, that would be a different article, and one that should require further research, being as this directive is written as a statement summarizing understood facts, rather than explaining them.

        I beg you, for your sake – so you don’t make more mistakes, please do your research before commenting on the accuracy of his statements.

        2) You’re entitled to your opinion. So is he. If it was so obvious that he is wrong, why has this law passed so easily, and in so many states?

        3) The law’s constitutionality is only being charged in this article with regards to Israel. The sanctions of Israel referred to here (as Governer Hogan states) are counter to US policy. This is the law which Senator Cardin is referring to. If you would simply go to the Chamber of Commerce website you can find the following outline of the law:


        The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.

        If the authors of this statement wish to discuss the constitutionality of this law, they are welcome to do so. Why are they specifically questioning – and ONLY questioning – the inclusion of boycotts against Israel in this law?

  • “Swastika Leftists”? “Nazis”?

    People who use this kind of overblown rhetoric are unhinged lunatics.

  • And you are showing your ignorance Saqib.

  • Really, really scary. I don’t even think this would be constitutional in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Just imagine a Palestinian American forbidden by Israel-First politicians from expressing his opinion towards Israel.

  • Y Singer:

    ” It’s amazes me that you can respond so viciously without bothering to read what Governer Hogan wrote.”

    Governor Hogans’ opinion on this matter doesn’t change the unconstitutional nature of his executive order one iota.

    “If it was so obvious that he is wrong, why has this law passed so easily, and in so many states?”

    LOL. Firstly this bill failed to pass into law in Maryland numerous times because I helped repeatedly kill it. In response Hogan issued this executive order because he knew it could not pass as a law. Secondly your statement shows that you don’t understand how laws and the constitution work in America. Take a high-school level civics class. Politicians pass unconstitutional laws ALL THE TIME. The test of a law/executive order being constitutional is not weather politicians voted for it, but weather courts upheld it. This law is now being challenged in Kansas and Arizona. It will likely be struck down.

    For a more detailed explanation read this article I wrote about this issue:

    • “Governor Hogans’ opinion on this matter doesn’t change the unconstitutional nature of his executive order one iota.”
      -They are not responding to the reasoning he gave- but an assumed reason. Again, you are discussing his reason, and that’s a discussion. I was responding mainly to the text of the article.

      “Politicians pass unconstitutional laws ALL THE TIME.”
      -That is certainly true. I apologize if I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean that it passed a vote. I meant that so many politicians seem to feel it constitutional. As I stated the law in question has been in place since 1978 without challenge. Also, to be clear, this is not meant as a proof of anything inherently – but simply suggesting that your conviction seems to be challenged by many – who I would suspect know more than both of us combined.

      Do with this as you wish. I apologize I don;t have more time to banty words on this matter. I think we’ve both made our points clear for others to decide.

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