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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) can require foreign organizations to formally oppose prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving American aid dollars, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-3 decision.
The case concerns a 2003 law governing foreign aid meant to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa, which states that funds may only be distributed to organizations that have a “policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking,” CNN reports. Congress’ purpose in enacting the condition almost 20 years ago was to fight “coercive practices that spread HIV/AIDS and degrade women and girls,” U.S. Solicitor General Christopher Michel explained in May.
The group Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI) challenged the law as an alleged violation of its freedom of speech. In May, AOSI attorney David Bowker argued that forcing the group to take a position against prostitution would force them into a hypocritical position, harming their “integrity and their reputation and their brand when they’re forced to speak out of two sides of their mouths.”
The Supreme Court previously ruled that imposing the condition on U.S.-based organizations would be unconstitutional, but ruled Monday that that was a moot point, as the First Amendment does not apply to non-American groups based outside the United States.
“Plaintiffs' foreign affiliates were incorporated in other countries and are legally separate from plaintiffs' American organizations,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh stated in his majority opinion. Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, while Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, likely due to her past work on the issue as a Justice Department official.
AOSI also argued it should be exempt from the requirement because the formal positions of its foreign affiliate could be attributed to its American one, which does enjoy First Amendment protections. The majority rejected that argument.
“First Amendment cases involving speech misattribution between formally distinct speakers… are premised on something missing here: Government compulsion to associate with another entity,” the court wrote. “Even protecting the free speech rights of only those foreign organizations that are closely identified with American organizations would deviate from the fundamental principle that foreign organizations operating abroad do not possess rights under the U. S. Constitution and enmesh the courts in difficult line-drawing exercises.”
The Supreme Court also ruled 5-4 Monday against a Louisiana pro-life law requiring that abortion centers make arrangements for admitting women to nearby hospitals in cases of life-threatening complications.