ACLU says Dickinson hurricane fix grant application violates Constitution

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Applicants for Hurricane Harvey relief grants for the storm-battered city of Dickinson are asked as part of the terms of the agreement to not boycott Israel, a move the ACLU has called unconstitutional.

At first glance, most of the requirements outlined in the city of Dickinson's Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application and Agreement seem fairly commonplace.

A suburb outside of Houston is requiring residents who were affected by Hurricane Harvey to certify that they do not boycott Israel in order to apply for grant money to rebuild their home or business. The State of Texas did pass a law forbidding the state from employing contractors who boycott Israel, but the city's form makes no indication that this is an extension of this law.

The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to participate in political boycotts, a right explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in a case that concerned an NAACP-organized boycott to protest white supremacy in Port Gibson, Mississippi. The bill "prohibits all state agencies from contracting with, and certain public funds from investing in, companies that boycott Israel", according to the governor's website.

The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out strongly against the rule in the application, criticizing it as a violation of free speech.

Dickinson's attorney, David Olsen, told Houston's ABC affiliate "until someone tells them something differently, they are obligated by state law to place this clause in their application".

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The ACLU hasn't sued Dickinson, but they are asking to hear from locals asked to sign the form.

To get hurricane aid in the city of Dickinson, one has to take a pledge not to boycott Israel. "Anybody who is forced to sign the certification regarding their First Amendment protected beliefs, expression, and association has had their constitutional rights violated regardless of whether or not they're engaged in the underlying activity or whether or not they're going to be penalized for participating in it", Hauss told Bustle.

In Kansas, ACLU is taking the state to court over a contract a teacher had to sign to be eligible for a state-funded program to help other teachers. In defending similar laws, he said there is a distinction between expressive speech vs. the regulation of commercial conduct.

Dickinson was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey two months ago.

As the organization pointed out, the Supreme Court in 1982 ruled the government can not put a stop to any "non-violent, politically motivated boycott created to force governmental and economic change".