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Could publicly criticizing the state of Israel be used as evidence that you’ve committed a hate crime? If SB 1143 becomes law, it might. Mirror bills, SB 1143 and HB 2683 amend Arizona law to incorporate a definition of anti-Semitism that is so broad and vague that statements that are solely critical of Israel could be used as evidence of a hate crime, including many statements protected by the First Amendment.
The legislation’s broad definition of anti-Semitism risks incorrectly equating constitutionally protected criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. People who protest Israel could find themselves facing a bias crime prosecution because of their political speech. The First Amendment squarely protects political speech, including criticism of any government.
Kenneth Stern, the lead author of the definition, has explicitly opposed application of the definition to United States law. Stern noted the definition was “never intended as a vehicle to monitor or suppress speech on campus” and that it was not only unnecessary but would also “hurt Jewish students and the academy.” In his testimony before Congress, Stern also discussed the ways in which the definition has been used to curtail protected speech.
The ACLU opposes any attempts to suppress First Amendment expression. The way to battle ideas we disagree with is by championing better ideas, not by criminalizing speech. Religious liberty and free speech are both fundamental rights under our Constitution and protecting them are at the core of the ACLU’s values. Both can be protected without having to compromise one to allow for the other.
Tell your Senator to vote no on SB 1143.