(Click here to read our message in full and see a list of signatories.)
Actions for individuals:
Things you can do right now
- Call or e-mail your national elected representatives (202-224-3121) to oppose proposed anti-BDS legislation as a serious attack on the right of free speech.
- Help us spread the ad on social media by visiting us on Facebook and Twitter and sharing our posts.
- Stay informed of our upcoming actions and efforts to oppose anti-BDS legislation!
Actions for organizers:
Things you can do in your community
Visit elected representatives and officials in states that have passed anti- BDS legislation or have legislation in motion and urge them to do all they can to stop, rescind these measures or effectively put an end to their enforcement. Deliver this ad and this clergy statement.
Write letters-to-the-editor, articles, or op-eds in media outlets exposing the serious danger that the attack on BDS poses to the First Amendment. Use the ad as a point of reference.
Use the ad to encourage faith leaders to take a public stand against these attacks on free speech. Clergy can sign on to a letter denouncing anti-BDS legislation here.
Actions for groups:
Add your faith or activist organization to the list of endorsers!
Protect Free Speech: A Message from Faith Organizations in the United States
WE CALL ON all Americans to join us and the ACLU in defending our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and on our state representatives and members of Congress to reject anti-BDS legislation as an infringement on the rights of American citizens.
Laws that penalize support for Palestinian human rights violate Americans' rights.
We, the undersigned, are members of faith communities in the United States whose congregations or denominations have adopted resolutions to boycott products made in Israeli settlements—built on occupied Palestinian lands in violation of international law and longstanding official U.S. policy—or have implemented a screen to divest from companies that profit from the 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These resolutions affirm our commitment to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis. (Continued below...)
We are alarmed by legislation recently passed in a number of states penalizing participation in the nonviolent, grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, and by similar legislation that is proposed in the U.S. Congress.
In August, the Kansas State Department of Education used the state’s anti-BDS legislation to bar a member of the Mennonite church, a math teacher and curriculum coach in Wichita, Kansas, from participating in a program to train other math teachers. This is a dangerous precedent threatening to extend repression of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule by muzzling the right of Americans to free speech. Accordingly, the ACLU has filed suit against the Kansas Commissioner of Education in defense of this school teacher and her right to boycott.
Anti-BDS laws that have already been enacted in several states, and similar legislation that is proposed in Congress effectively penalize actions taken by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the Mennonite Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and other denominations; and tens of thousands of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and secular Americans who support boycotts and divestment aimed at ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
As faith leaders, we have long used the nonviolent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change, from strengthening labor rights for farm workers to ending apartheid in South Africa. As has been warned by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, anti-BDS legislation is an extremely grave attack on free speech that threatens the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions for other peace and human justice causes.
From buses to tea, fossil fuels to grapes, boycotts are a time-honored and constitutionally protected form of speech! #IstandwithEsther and her right to boycott!
Did you see our ad in the Kansas City Star? Donate here to help us spread this message further.
Help us show Esther Koontz that we support her courageous stand.
Learn more about her case, here.
Whenever we choose to work for peace and justice in the Middle East, we know this choice can be costly.
In August, Ms. Esther Koontz, a trainer of math teachers in Wichita, Kansas, and a member of the Mennonite Church USA, learned that she would not be allowed to participate in a professional program for which she was qualified because she would be required to sign a statement affirming she is not presently engaged in a boycott of Israel. When Ms. Koontz refused to sign that statement, she was informed she would be ineligible to receive payment as a state-contracted teacher trainer.
In gross violation of her First Amendment right to free speech, Ms. Koontz was thus denied a professional opportunity based on her conscientious determination to preserve her right to boycott companies that profit from violent and repressive business endeavors.
This is what costly solidarity looks like. This is Christian faith and conviction applied in real time. This is moral authority speaking loudly not simply through words, but through action.
Indeed, the June 12, 2017, letter from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine explicitly pleads for our “costly solidarity” including creative, nonviolent resistance to the military occupation of Palestinian land.
On July 6, 2017, the Mennonite Church USA resolved overwhelmingly to review its investment practices for the purpose of withdrawing investments from companies that profit from the military occupation of Palestine. The Mennonite Church USA urged all church members to review their investments in a similar way.
The Clergy and Seminary Action Council of Friends of Sabeel North America honors the Mennonite Church USA and especially Ms. Esther Koontz for their bold actions. We express our respect, our solidarity, and our Christian faith in affirming this costly witness. We are grateful for this expression of conviction which adds authority and power to the ongoing work of the church to end military occupation of Palestine—a military occupation now in its 50th year. We are pleased to know the American Civil Liberties Union will argue Ms. Koontz’s case on Constitutional grounds.
May God grant strength, relief, and many steadfast allies as this case plays out in the courts. We aim to be among those allies.
Friends of Sabeel North America Clergy and Seminary Action Council