New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today signed into law legislation that forbids the state pension from investing in companies that boycott Israel, raising serious constitutional concerns, the ACLU of New Jersey said today. The bill, S1923/A925, prohibits the state's pension and annuities funds from investing in any company that boycotts Israel or Israel's businesses.
The ACLU-NJ issues the following statement, which can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom:
"The ACLU-NJ strongly opposed this blacklist bill, and we now strongly oppose this blacklist law. Now, the New Jersey government will be authorized to open investigations into people's speech and beliefs to tell whether a company's choice not to do business with Israel was based on political beliefs or other reasons, and to punish companies based on what they find.
"This legislation requires the state to punish companies because of the beliefs people there hold rather than any action they have taken.
"Government investigators should not have free rein to spy on New Jerseyans' political beliefs to check if they match the political opinions of lawmakers. No matter your viewpoint or opinion on the conflict in the Middle East, our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and protest must come first. The United States, as well as the world, has a long history of using boycotts as a form of political protest. Today, Governor Christie undermined not only boycotting as a political tactic, but our founding principles of free speech and free association.
"In stark contrast to attempts to boycott regimes such as apartheid South Africa by punishing any company that did business with the South African government, this legislation punishes only companies that refuse to do business with Israel because of their beliefs. If two similar companies choose not to deal with Israel, only the outspoken one will suffer the consequences. Today, Governor Christie signed into law a dangerous precedent for New Jerseyans' free speech."