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Protecting the Right to Protest Through Economic Actions

estherThe Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supports the First Amendment litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in the United States District Court of Kansas on behalf of Esther Koontz.

The case challenges the constitutionality of the Kansas Anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) state law which mandates that individuals and companies who do business with the State, including providing “…services, supplies, information technology or construction” must certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.  Failure to sign the certification disqualifies the individual or company from contracting with the State.

Ms. Koontz works at a public school as a curriculum coach training teacher.  She also contracted with the State Education Department as a curriculum coach to train to math teachers, but her job offer was withdrawn because she refused to sign the Anti-Israel boycott certification.

Ms. Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church (USA), which shares the IPMN’s commitment for a peaceful BDS approach protected by the First Amendment, which permits our churches’ religious missions to seek peace and justice for the Israelis and Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Since its inception in 2004, IPMN’s mission “covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel the energy of the PC(USA) toward the goal of a just peace in Israel and Palestine by facilitating education, promoting partnerships and coordinating advocacy.”  Not only has this led us in our work in this denomination, it has created partnerships with many other ecumenical and interfaith religious bodies.

We remember that the legislation being challenged in Kansas, as well as similar legislation passed by other states and taken up by the U.S. Congress, puts us and many of our ecumenical and interfaith partners at risk.  Our own General Assembly, in 2012 and 2014, called for a blanket boycott of all Israeli settlement goods and for divestment from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions for profiting from non-peaceful pursuits through Israel’s half-century military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Present legislation, as well as more under consideration, not only violate our First Amendment right to free speech, but also seek to prevent people of faith from acting in accordance with their religious conscience.

We stand with Esther Koontz, support her right to stand up for human rights in the name of Jesus Christ, and remain in solidarity with the Mennonite Church (USA).

See: On Affirming Nonviolent Means of Resistance to Human Oppression, Overture 12-05, overwhelmingly approved with voice vote by the 222nd General Assembly (2016).  

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