Texas town offers hurricane relief, but only with a political promise

Texas town offers hurricane relief, but only with a political promise

It was one of the hardest areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, but a clause in a grant application has many asking questions in the city of Dickinson.

Clearly unconstitutional, argued the ACLU. The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to participate in political boycotts, a right explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in a case that concerned an NAACP-organized boycott to protest white supremacy in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Also known as Anti-BDS, HB 89 prohibits state agencies from contracting with and certain public funds from investing in companies boycotting Israel. The Washington Post and Dallas News offer some context, with a Dickinson city lawyer pointing to a state law he says makes this language legally acceptable.

Dickinson's attorney, David Olsen, told Houston's ABC affiliate "until someone tells them something differently, they are obligated by state law to place this clause in their application". Austin and San Antonio have implemented similar requirements. The law was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 2 and went into effect on September 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized the application an attack on free speech.

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law, he said, "As Israel's No. 1 trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership", he said.

But Dickinson isn't the only city in Texas to begin including such anti-BDS requirements in official contracts.

"The city does not take a political stance on the (boycott) itself". Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas on behalf of a teacher challenging that state's boycott law. "These laws have been popping up over the past few years as part of what we view as a sustained legislative assault on the right to boycott", Hauss told Bustle. Kallinen said when it comes to individuals, there may be questions about how the law is interpreted. "In terms of enforcement, what I think is really pernicious about these laws is they're created to scare people", Hauss told Bustle.