Special Supreme Court Edition - June 2013
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Letter from the President

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NGOs in USAID v. AOSI Decision 

Sam WorthingtonDear Friends:

We are thrilled to report that the Supreme Court today ruled 6-2 in InterAction’s favor in the case of USAID v. AOSI. This ruling has significant implications for the work that we do.
The Court, in its decision today, affirmed a lower court’s decision that a requirement in a 2003 law violated freedom of speech. That law required that all groups receiving U.S government funds for international HIV and AIDS work have “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution.” The Supreme Court agreed in a 6-2 decision that this was a violation of our First Amendment rights.  
The policy requirement would have affected the ability to provide life-saving health services to affected populations in the fight against HIV and AIDS and prevented us from speaking freely in the important debate over how best to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. While we agree that the government can say how it wants its money spent, this requirement went far beyond that by shutting down research and debate on important topics.
The ruling is a victory for our community – most importantly and immediately, the people we work with whose lives are touched by HIV and AIDS. We are heartened by the Court’s decision and ready to continue our partnership with the U.S. government to save lives. 
Sam Worthington
President and CEO, InterAction
Court Upholds Right to Free Speech

The Significance of the Supreme Court Decision

Lindsay CoatesWhat does today’s Supreme Court decision mean for organizations like InterAction and co-plaintiffs who are on the frontlines of responding to HIV and AIDS? InterAction’s Lindsay Coates, our executive vice president and a lawyer herself, calls the ruling “a resounding affirmation of the freedom of civil society organizations to express their views.” In an op-ed in The Huffington Post, Coates outlines the importance of the ruling, and explains why the enactment of the government policy would be so harmful in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Read more.

Quotes from Chief Justice Roberts' Opinion

“This case is not about the Government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees.  It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”  (p12) 
“By demanding that funding recipients adopt – as their own – the Government’s view on an issue of public concern, the condition by its very nature affects ‘protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program.’  Rust, 500 U.S., at 197.  A recipient cannot avow the belief dictated by the Policy Requirement when spending Leadership Act funds, and then turn around and assert a contrary belief, or claim neutrality, when participating in activities on its own time and dime.  By requiring recipients to profess a specific belief, the Policy Requirement goes beyond defining the limits of the federally funded program to defining the recipient.”  (p12, citing Rust)   

"But the Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program.  It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.  As to that, we cannot improve upon what Justice Jackson wrote for the Court 70 years ago:  ‘If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.’  Barnette, 319 U.S., at 642." (p14)

“The Policy Requirement compels as a condition of federal funding the affirmation of a belief that by its nature cannot be confined within the scope of the Government program.  In so doing, it violates the First Amendment and cannot be sustained.  The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.  It is so ordered.” (p18)

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