Friday, September 2, 2016

Woodstock Free Speech Resolution

 Woodstock Free Speech 

Thanks all of you who have signed our Woodstock Free Speech Resolution (woodstockfreespeech.org), which we put before the Woodstock Town Board in July. We based this Resolution on our First Amendment right of freedom of speech and opinion as set forth by the United States and New York State Constitutions and on the Supreme Court’s determination that advocacy of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions is a protected form of political speech. 

Civil rights proponents such as the New York American Civil Liberties Union; the Center for Constitutional Rights; Palestine Legal; and Abraham Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have each taken a principled stance against Governor Cuomo’s June 5 Executive Order 157. This Order directs NYS agencies to divest public funds from entities that support boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) against Israel (for its inhumane policies and for its mistreatment of the Palestinian people). Taking this one step further, Cuomo’s Order directs the Commissioner of the Office of General Services to publish an online list of companies/entities that engage in BDS and also of companies/entities that advocate for others to engage —“a definition that could encompass even institutions that have merely spoken out in support of boycotting Israel.”

Thankfully, in the United States and in New York State, our Constitutions protect our right of free speech and our right of political free speech as well as our right to boycott and divest and our right to urge others to do the same. 

Moreover, Alan Sussman, a former Constitutional lawyer and a well-respected Woodstock resident, recently wrote a letter to the Woodstock Town Board in support of the Woodstock Free Speech Resolution: “Thus EO 157 penalizes the legal advocacy of an activity which itself (boycott, divestment) is perfectly legal.” Sussman continued … “The additional and more serious effect is that people will be reluctant, and groups and corporations even more reluctant, to speak their mind for fear of incurring a state-imposed penalty.”

Each of us has an obligation to protect our precious freedoms. Thanks to all who embody integrity and are willing to stand on the right side of democracy and history.

Helaine Meisler

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