Texas (QNN)- A US federal judge has blocked enforcement of a controversial Texas anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) law, saying it violates freedom of speech under the country’s first amendment of the constitution.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin said on Thursday boycotts are protected free speech and that the anti-BDS law forces “public debate through coercion rather than persuasion”.
“This the First Amendment does not allow,” he wrote in a 56-page opinion.
The order came in a case brought by Bahia Amawi, a speech pathologist who was told she could only continue her contract work with Pflugerville ISD if she promised not to boycott Israel. Amawi, who conducted bilingual and early childhood evaluations for the district, refused to sign the addendum to her contract. As a result, she was told that she couldn’t be paid, and the district terminated her contract on Sept. 17. She sued in December.
“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed suit on Amawi’s behalf. “More importantly, it’s a complete victory for all Texans, to engage in political speech without government censorship.”
“Every single ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clause in every single state contract in Texas has today been stricken as unconstitutional. The Attorney General of Texas is no longer permitted to include or enforce ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clauses in any state contract,” CAIR said in a statement shortly after the ruling.
According to the statement, Amawi was driving when she heard the news.
She pulled over to side of the road and said: “God is great”.
“Arabic-speaking schoolchildren in Texas have been deprived of critical services from Bahia Amawi for almost this entire schoolyear because of this unconstitutional law,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri.
CAIR-Austin’s Executive Director Maira Sheikh said: “Bahia Amawi has been an inspiration to the Muslim community and all advocates for free speech in Texas.”
Passed and signed into law in May 2017, it was touted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. “I am proud to have commemorated Israel’s Independence Day by signing into law Anti-BDS legislation in Texas,” Abbott said in a news release.
“As Israel’s number one trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership. Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally,” he added.