for our work to continue.
The First Amendment Protects the Right to Boycott Israel
Brian Hauss, ACLU Staff Attorney, July 2017
Earlier this week, the ACLU sent a letter  to members of Congress opposing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act . The bill would amend existing law to prohibit people in the United States from supporting boycotts targeting Israel — making it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
LEARN MORE about
Right to Boycott
Statements by United Methodists
& Our Faith Partners
Broad faith coalition calls on Americans to protect First Amendment rights in full-page adSee the ad
Twenty Christian Leaders representing 17 national organizations send open letter to Congress, opposing anti-BDS legislation
See the letter
The 2016 Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church Opposes Anti-BDS Legislation See the resolution
Beyond the United States
The governmental attacks on free speech rights that should be guaranteed are also happening in Europe. Learn more about that and see helpful resources at our Right to Boycott page.
United Methodist General Conference 2024:
Legislation & Resources on Israel/Palestine
Whereas measures such as boycotts have proven to be useful tools in helping to bring constructive social change, as evidenced by the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa, and
Whereas boycotts are constitutionally protected forms of free speech in the United States and many other nations, and they are also protected under international human rights law, and
Whereas the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has issued a request asking church bodies around the world to prayerfully consider increasing their support for the human rights of all ethnic groups and religious bodies in the Holy Land, with particular regard to the rights of ethnic minorities, religious minorities including Christians, children who’ve been imprisoned, as well as the right to nonviolently protest such violations of basic rights, and to do so with actions as well as words, and
Whereas in 2012 the United Methodist General Conference approved the resolution "Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land" (2016 UM Book of Resolutions #6111), which calls on “all nations to prohibit...the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land,” i.e. calls for an international boycott of the Israeli settlements, and
Whereas thirteen United Methodist annual conferences have called for their own conference and/or the denomination to consider divesting from companies that support and profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and three United Methodists annual conferences have called for their own conference and/or the denomination to consider divesting from government bonds/ sovereign debt of countries who are engaged in prolonged military occupation, and
Whereas in 2016 the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church (Wespath) announced that five Israeli banks would be excluded from their investment portfolios after having previously announced their divestment from a company running Israeli prisons, and
Whereas eleven annual conferences of The United Methodist Church and one jurisdiction have voted to specifically affirm the right to peacefully address injustice through boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and
Whereas a recent wave of governmental measures has been proposed or has been passed in various state legislatures that impose penalties on citizens and corporations for engaging in boycott, divestment and sanctions, and
Whereas, as a result of such state legislation, in 2017 the right of a Mennonite public school teacher in Kansas to be considered for a job was denied specifically because she refused to reject a personal boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in accordance with the stance of her church, and
Whereas the United States Congress has sought to officially condemn the use of time-honored economic methods for nonviolently addressing injustice, and
Whereas the United Methodist Social Principles calls on all Christians to resist unjust governmental interference in the work of the church (¶164B Book of Discipline),
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church opposes any interference by any local, regional, or national government in our right to address injustice through nonviolent economic means, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church urges all United Methodist annual and central conferences, congregations, and church members to contact their local, regional and national elected officials, to communicate this resolution and to advocate against suppression of time-honored and non-violent means of addressing injustice.
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Right to Boycott
Attorney Brian Hauss has been one of the principal staff of the ACLU writing and speaking about this legislation. In this 4-minute interview he explains the problems with anti-BDS legislation.
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