The U.S. Supreme Court protected the First Amendment freedom of association provision while striking a blow against cancel culture in a decision it published Thursday, the court’s final day before its summer recess.
In its 6-3 decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, the court struck down a California statute that required non-profits and charitable organizations to disclose the names and addresses of their major donors.
George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley applauded the opinion.
"In the age of cancelling campaign, anonymity has become more important for many who do not want to face the ire of trolls and political activists," he wrote. "Anonymity can also be used by trolls who attack others while hiding themselves from any accountability."
Curt Levy, president of the Committee for Justice, also approved, and released a statement suggesting that the decision was long overdue.
"And, with racial issues at the forefront of the current public debate, it is fitting that today's decision was based on the Supreme Court's 1958 precedent in NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment protected the NAACP from having to disclose its membership list to the state of Alabama," he said.
Although the decision protects donors’ identities in all organizations, regardless of their politics, The New York Times framed it as only a "conservative" victory.
"The Supreme Court rejected California’s requirement that charities report the identities of major donors, siding with conservative groups who said the disclosures could lead to harassment," the Times said.
Forbes ran with a similar headline: "Supreme Court Sides With Conservative Groups, Empowers Dark Money Groups With Ruling Striking Down California Donor Law."
NPR drew the same conclusion, claiming that the court was "siding with rich donors and their desire to remain anonymous." NPR, of course, stands for National Public Radio. A case of your tax dollars hard at work.
However, as Conservative Partnership Institute policy director Rachel Bovard observed, it was a win for everyone.
"The ACLU, the NAACP, Human Rights Fund, PETA, and the Southern Poverty Law Center all filed amicus briefs saying California's law should be overturned for violating the First Amendment," she said.
Major donors seek anonymity to avoid "cancellation" simply by virtue of their support for particular causes. Examples of others being "cancelled" include:
- My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, when nearly 20 retailers dropped his company because of his strong loyalty to former President Trump, and for questioning the 2020 presidential election results.
- Conservative "Mandalorian" actress Gina Carano, who was fired by Disney and dropped by her agent for comparing being a Republican in 2021 to being Jewish in Nazi Germany.
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who’s been the target of repeated calls for sponsors to drop him over his opinions. During one evening, a group of protesters calling themselves "Smash Racism DC” arrived at his home late at night chanting "we want you to know we know where you sleep at night."
- Even being a liberal offers no immunity. Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling was cancelled over her belief that transgender rights could eventually endanger women’s rights. Her critics called for a boycott of her books and for her publisher to stop paying royalties.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that "just 11 years ago, eight Members of the Court, including two Members of the current majority, recognized that disclosure requirements do not directly interfere with First Amendment rights."
That single member of the court that believed disclosure laws violated the First Amendment freedom of association was Justice Clarence Thomas.
Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network and a former law clerk for Justice Thomas, couldn’t help but respond.
"Just over a decade ago, Justice Thomas was the only justice who recognized disclosure mandates as a First Amendment burden," she wrote. "Now a majority of the Court does."
Accordingly, after 11 years, a majority of the United States Supreme Court finally caught up with Clarence Thomas, and in so doing, has struck a blow for First Amendment freedom and against "cancel culture."
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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