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Justices to Test Reach of Speech Protections For Foreign Groups

Dec. 13, 2019, 10:14 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the reach of First Amendment speech protections after it agreed Dec. 13 to review a ruling finding that foreign affiliates of U.S. health groups who fight HIV and AIDS abroad don’t have to comply with federal law in order to receive funding.

Under the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act, the federal government doles out billions of dollars to nongovernmental groups fighting these diseases worldwide.

But it requires that the groups adopt explicitly policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking to receive the funds.

In 2013, the Supreme Court said that requirement violated the First Amendment by compelling speech as a condition for federal funding.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) later decided that the high court’s ruling didn’t apply where the funds were received by the foreign affiliates of the U.S. health groups, rather than the U.S. groups themselves.

The New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected that reading, saying that forcing “an entity’s affiliate to speak the government’s message unconstitutionally impairs that entity’s own ability to speak.”

The justices agreed to review that ruling and are expected to hear the case early next year.

The case is Agency for Int’l Dev. v. All. for Open Soc’y Int’l, Inc., U.S., No. 19-177, granted 12/13/19.

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