In the face of criticism from free speech advocates, New Jersey legislators in the Assembly on June 16 recently amended a bill, A1923/A925, that would forbid investment of the New Jersey state pension fund in any company that boycotts Israel. The amendment deletes a phrase in the legislation’s definition of the word “boycott.” Instead of being a “politically motivated” action meant to have an economic impact on a specific place, a boycott is now defined in the bill as an action meant to have an economic impact on a specific place.
After examining the amendment, the ACLU of New Jersey reiterates its firm opposition to the constitutionally problematic bill. A vote in the Assembly is scheduled for Monday, June 27. The Senate has passed its version of the bill.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin:
“The ACLU-NJ remains opposed to S1923/A925, which would withdraw state pension funds from any company perceived to take a political position boycotting Israel.
“The amendments made to the Assembly bill do not fix our serious constitutional concerns, and our opposition to the bill remains unchanged.
“In our analysis, the change is purely cosmetic. A boycott by its very nature is a form of protest and by extension a political act. This change may use different words to describe a boycott, but it does not address our criticism that the bill violates the First Amendment by punishing people for what they say and believe.
“S1923/A925, scheduled for a vote in the Assembly, continues to pose a significant threat to civil liberties in New Jersey. This legislation still punishes speech — political and otherwise — and still builds government blacklists targeting people who hold certain political viewpoints. The ACLU-NJ continues to oppose the legislation and urges lawmakers to vote no on the legislation.”