Supreme Court Knocks Out Law Requiring Anti-AIDS NGOs Receiving Funding to Explicitly Oppose Prostitution
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive funding from the U.S. government to combat AIDS cannot be compelled to adopt anti-prostitution policies, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.
The case centered on a 2003 law intended to combat AIDS and other infectious diseases worldwide. It provided $60 billion in funding for public health NGOs—but only if they renounced prostitution and sex trafficking, which can lead to the spread of diseases.
Four NGOs that carry out overseas programs sued the government, saying the law undermined their efforts because they sometimes have to work with those involved in the sex trade in order to fight the spread of AIDS. The plaintiffs also pointed out that the World Health Organization, which also receives money from the program, was exempted from the requirement.
The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 2 that the no-prostitution provision in the law, which was supported by the Obama administration, violated the First Amendment because it forced groups to endorse the government’s viewpoint.
“This case is not about the government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”
Roberts added that the government cannot compel groups receiving funding to “pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.”
Roberts was joined in the ruling by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Justice Elena Kagan, who worked on the case when she was President Obama’s solicitor general, recused herself. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, with Scalia writing that the federal government has the right to “enlist the assistance of those who believe in its ideas to carry them to fruition; and it need not enlist for that purpose those who oppose or do not support the ideas.”
To Learn More:
Supreme Court Says Law can’t Dictate Anti-AIDS Groups’ Speech (by Robert Barnes, Washington Post)
Justices Say U.S. Cannot Impose Antiprostitution Condition on AIDS Grants by Adam Liptak, New York Times)
Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. (U.S. Supreme Court) (pdf)
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