WASHINGTON, July 1, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Thursday that California violated the U.S. Constitution by requiring nonprofits to reveal the names of major donors.
California wanted charities to submit their IRS 990 Schedule B forms to the state in the name of “critical law enforcement purposes,” claiming the records will remain private. A coalition of organizations crossing ideological lines — including Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Thomas More Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, and Council on American-Islamic Relations — argued the law violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of association by creating a “chilling effect” on political donations.
“We do not doubt that California has an important interest in preventing wrongdoing by charitable organizations,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority opinion, agreed to by all the Court’s Republican appointees. “There is a dramatic mismatch, however, between the interest that the Attorney General seeks to promote and the disclosure regime that he has implemented in service of that end.” He added that “assurances of confidentiality may reduce the burden of disclosure to the State, [but] they do not eliminate it.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the Democrat-nominated jurists’ dissent, claiming the majority failed to require “that plaintiffs demonstrate an actual First Amendment burden before demanding that a law be narrowly tailored to the government’s interests, never mind striking the law down in its entirety.”
Despite efforts by outlets such as the New York Times to frame the ruling as siding with “conservative groups,” the outcome is a victory for advocacy groups across the entire political spectrum, whose current and potential future donors would otherwise fear reprisals for their political positions, whether from state governments directly or from private citizens acting on leaked personal information.
In particular, many conservatives doubt the defendant’s assurances that donors’ privacy would have been secure in light of the Golden State’s recent track record on individual rights, from discrimination against churches in COVID restrictions to colluding with social media companies to silence disfavored speech.
The ruling also offers conservatives some assurance that, despite a series of disappointing outcomes from Republican-appointed justices, including former President Donald Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court, those appointees still represent a significant net difference compared to Democrat judicial nominees.