Free Speech & Peace

Supreme Court strikes a blow against free speech in Soros case, Charles Koch Institute fellow says

June 30, 2020

The Supreme Court released a decision upholding requirements that nonprofit organizations pledge opposition to prostitution in order to receive government funding. It’s a strike against free speech.

The First Amendment prohibits the government, in Chief Justice John Roberts’ words, “from telling people what they must say.” But that principle was undermined today in USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International Inc.

The organization, part of George Soros’ philanthropic network, partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development to fight HIV/AIDS. The government, however, is trying to force AOSI to adopt its position formally opposing prostitution as a condition for partnership. While AOSI does not support prostitution, it disagrees with the government’s definition of the term.

Charles Koch Institute Senior Fellow Casey Mattox explains why the Supreme Court should have rejected the government’s argument in The Dispatch:

Whether a person or a group opposes prostitution is not the question at stake in the Supreme Court. The question is whether the government should be permitted to force any group to adopt such a policy—or any policy—as a condition of funding.

At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that every person should decide for themselves what they want to say, or whether they want to say anything at all.

AOSI and other groups have been in court defending their rights to free speech and free association since 2005. Federal courts at every level, including the Supreme Court, have sided with them and against the government.

After 15 years, it’s past time to lay this issue to rest, guarantee their First Amendment rights, and let these groups carry on with the work they’re doing.

The First Amendment restrains the actions of the government: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Congress cannot avoid that restraint through clever manipulation of corporate structure. Here, forbidden by the Supreme Court from compelling the same pledge from U.S. organizations, it seeks to compel it from their foreign affiliates instead.

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor lean into that point in the dissent:

The Court, in my view, asks the wrong question and gives the wrong answer. This case is not about the First Amendment rights of foreign organizations. It is about—and has always been about—the First Amendment rights of American organizations.

Read Mattox’s full commentary here.