The city of Dickinson, Texas is accepting applications for aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey, but is raising eyebrows with the text of their application form, which compels all applicants to swear they are not boycotting Israel, and will not boycott Israel for the duration of the aid deal.
"It is absolutely unconscionable for state and local governments to impose political litmus tests on disaster relief funds for people devastated by Hurricane Harvey", Brian Hauss, an ACLU staff attorney based in NY, told The Intercept.
The city began accepting applications October 11 for grants to rebuild homes or businesses damaged in the storm that made landfall August 25.
The application form includes a clause titled 'Verification not to boycott Israel, ' which requires to verify that "the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement". House Bill 89, which was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 2 and went into effect on September 1, states: "A governmental entity may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services unless the contract contains a written verification from the company that it: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract".
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The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out strongly against the rule in the application, criticizing it as a violation of free speech.
"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally", the governor said in a statement, reports Independent. Dickinson City Attorney David Olson confirmed in an interview with KTRK that this was the reason it's in there, saying the city is committed to following the law.
"In short, the Texas law being enforced by the City of Dickinson - as well as other cities throughout Texas, including Galveston, Austin and San Antonio - is leveraging vital government funds to suppress one side of a prominent public debate".
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"Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies", Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said when he signed the bill into law in May. She stressed the state was only following State law.
Before you can receive any money from the City of Dickinson to start rebuilding your home or your business, the city is going to need you to make a few promises.
"It would violate the first amendment to the Constitution to require someone to abstain from a boycott of a country because boycotts are treated the same as speech by the law", Kallinen said.
Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously supported the boycotters.
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