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Author Topic: SCOTUS: says law can’t dictate anti-AIDS groups’ speech  (Read 668 times)

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Supreme Court says law can’t dictate anti-AIDS groups’ speech

By Robert Barnes, Thursday, June 20, 12:14 PM

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the federal government may not force groups that receive funding for overseas anti-HIV/AIDS programs to adopt its views against prostitution and sex trafficking.

The justices ruled 6 to 2 that a requirement in a multibillion-dollar anti-AIDS program that withholds funds from organizations that do not have a policy “explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking” violates an organization's free-speech rights.

“This case is not about the government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”

The decision came on what is supposed to be the penultimate week of the Supreme Court’s term. But marquee decisions on same-sex marriage, the future of affirmative action in college admissions and on a key section of the Voting Rights Act are undecided, as are seven other cases.

Monday is the court’s last scheduled day for decisions, but it is likely the justices will add one or two more days next week.

The disputed provision is part of a 2003 law under which the United States is spending $60 billion to combat infectious diseases around the world. It forbade any of the money being used to “promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking,” which it said are ways the diseases are sometimes spread.

But a second provision required the groups receiving the funds to have the explicit policy against prostitution.

The groups argued that that requirement would compromise their effectiveness, because they most often work with those involved in prostitution. Besides, they argued, it is an intrusion on their free-speech rights.

Roberts said government can restrict the ways funds are spent, but cannot require them to “pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.”

He was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she had worked on it while President Obama’s solicitor general.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“The First Amendment does not mandate a viewpoint-neutral government,” Scalia wrote.

“The government may enlist the assistance of those who believe in its ideas to carry them to fruition; and it need not enlist for that purpose those who oppose or do not support the ideas.

“That seems to me a matter of the most common common sense.”

The case is Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International.
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