Amid a deepening “Cancel Culture” environment of cyberstalking, harassment and outright persecution on the basis of political differences, the United States Supreme Court put its foot down in defense of the First Amendment.
In a pivotal 6-3 ruling, the Court affirmed that when governments force mission-based organizations to disclose the identities, names, addresses and other sensitive information on their donors, that loss of anonymity can impermissibly chill the First Amendment rights of those organizations and their individual supporters. By forcibly “outing” supporters in that way, governments render them less likely to contribute and also subject them to the risk of reprisals.
A unanimous Supreme Court reached that same conclusion in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), when it rejected an effort by Alabama officials to force the NAACP to surrender its membership lists. In subsequent decades, however, courts had allowed government intrusions to erode that First Amendment protection.
At issue in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta was a California law requiring charitable organizations in the state to register with the state Attorney General’s Office each year, and to disclose the identities of their major donors. Charities renewing their registrations were required to file copies of their federal Internal Revenue Service Form 990, on which tax-exempt organizations provide information about their missions, leadership and finances. Organizations must also disclose the names and addresses of their major donors. Since 2001, the plaintiffs in the case renewed their registrations as required, but protected their donors’ anonymity by declining to disclose their identities.
Those organizations faced no consequences for non-compliance until 2010, the year in which Kamala Harris was elected Attorney General.
In subsequent years, however, California increased its enforcement of the charities’ compulsory donor disclosure obligations under the law, ultimately threatening them with suspension of their registrations and fines for non-compliance. The plaintiff organizations therefore filed suit in federal court, rightly contending that compulsory disclosure violated their First Amendment rights and the rights of their donors by making them less likely to contribute and participate in the organizations’ missions.
California rationalized that it needed to collect the information at issue to police misconduct and prevent fraud, but the Court was having none of it:
Recall that 60,000 charities renew their registrations each year, and nearly all are required to fill a Schedule B. Each Schedule B, in turn, contains information about a charity’s top donors – a small handful of individuals in some cases, but hundreds in others. This information includes donors’ names and the total contributions they have made to the charity, as well as their addresses. Given the amount and sensitivity of this information harvested by the State, one would expect Schedule B collection to form an integral part of California’s fraud detection efforts. It does not. To the contrary, the record amply supports the District Court’s finding that there was not a single, concrete instance in which pre-investigation collection of a Schedule B did anything to advance the Attorney General’s investigative, regulatory, or enforcement efforts.
Accordingly, the Court ruled, “California casts a dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year, even though that information will become relevant in only a small number of cases involving filed complaints. The majority continued, “California does not rely on Schedule Bs to initiate investigations, and in all events, there are multiple alternative mechanisms through which the Attorney General can obtain Schedule B information after initiating an investigation.”
Moreover, the Court highlighted, California proved itself utterly inept at protecting the sensitive organizational and donor information that it collected:
The District Court also found that California was unable to ensure the confidentiality of donors’ information. During the course of litigation, the Foundation identified nearly 2,000 confidential Schedule Bs that had been inadvertently posted to the Attorney General’s website, including dozens that were found the day before trial. One of the Foundation’s expert witnesses also discovered that he was able to access hundreds of thousands of confidential documents on the website simply by changing a digit in the URL. The court found after trial that “the amount of careless mistakes made by the Attorney General’s Registry is shocking.”
The Court further found that the plaintiffs showed that they and their supporters had been subjected to such things as bomb threats, protests, stalking and physical violence. “Such risks are heightened,” the Court noted, “in the 21st century and seem to grow with each passing year, as ‘anyone with access to a computer can compile a wealth of information about’ anyone else, including such sensitive details as a person’s home address or the school attended by his children.”
Accordingly, the Court rightly determined that the First Amendment’s protections are triggered not only by explicit, outright legal restrictions on citizens’ or organizations’ individual freedoms of speech or association. Rather, “[t]he risk of a chilling effect on association is enough, because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive.”
The Supreme Court thus notched an invaluable victory for the First Amendment, once again highlighting the importance of judicial composition in this era of increasing partisanship and acrimony. Hopefully there are more to come.
Reprinted with Permission from - Center for Individual Freedom by - Timothy H. Lee
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These acts against the freedom and rights of individuals under the First Amendment have been mostly used by Democrats against Conservatives. Remember the IRS under Obama using these tactics when any Conservative, or Conservative group, applied for 504 non-profit status? They were required to provide all sorts of private information on members names, addresses, and other personal information, then most applications were denied. The modus operandi of misinformation, outright lies, false narrative, and collection of private and personal information is the primary reason for the success of Democrats. When will naïve people with thinking brains stop believing the Democrat lies? People can see one day the facts of bad history of the Democrats, then be told by the same Democrats the next day that the opposite of the facts are true, and believe it, as if they never saw the facts the day before. How does this work for them??? Please explain it to me if you can.
It is painfully clear that words on a Constitution, Bill of Rights and even existing Statutes, mean absolutely nothing if the legal system is corrupted by political influence. If our politicians continue to ignore the the Will of the people they purport to represent, then I’m afraid we are going to have to descend upon Washington DC and or our state capitals to PEACEFULLY PROTEST and have the biggest sit in where we will stay until the many attempts to mimic Nazi Germany come to an end.
WE THE PEOPLE MUST REMEMBER THAT OUR ANCESTORS GAVE US THE POWER OVER THE GOVERNMENT THEY CREATED USING THE CONSTITUTION AS ITS ORIGINAL BACKBONE. The PRESIDENT-UNELECT BIDEN put his hands on the Bible and took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. HE IS PURPOSELY DESTROYING AMERICA BIT BY BIT, EVERYDAY.
WE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER. It’s 330,000,000 +/- AMERICANS vs. 545(*) CORRUPT POLITICIANS.
(*) 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, 1 President and 9 Supreme Court Judges equal 545 IDIOTS who believe they are above us and that WE THE PEOPLE are SUBSERVIENT TO THEM.
One has to wonder why now does SCOTUS rule correctly? Does it correlate to the fact they have rid themselves of Trump so the conservative side of the court now rules correctly? Or is there perhaps something else going on? Chief Justice Roberts comes to mind & he has in fact been that left wing liberal in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be a conservative for a very long time now…Could there be any truth that Roberts has in fact been arrested for pedophilia & excepting large sums of bribery money through the DOJ?
Something to ponder on until ALL the truth comes out with respect to everything every American has been suffering through these past ( 18 ) months… I’m thinking on the initial data of the audits coming to light now in AZ, PA & Georgia… PA isn’t quite there yet, but very close, there is NO stopping it now…
In summary: ” The best is yet to come… ”
Bill on the Hill… :~)
Hey Bill, I have to emphasize you post. That the First Amendment would have not near the IMPACT and VOLUME without The Second Amendment! THE Enforcement Principal protecting all of The Bill of Rights FOR We The People!
Well now, I was wondering when the Supreme (?) Court would do the right thing for a change.
Yes Karen & I find it oddly strange considering their own behavior of late with respect to ” No Legal Standing ” with regards to the 2020 US Presidential Election crimes committed by our very own gov’t & select states…
Bill on the Hill… :~)
Unfortunately, in recent decades the USSC had morphed into a legislative branch of the Democrat Party instead of an arbiter and protector of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, much of the radical left’s agenda was implemented through judicial activism rather than legislative action by representatives of the people. Thankfully, the USSC has moved back into a rational and constitutional role that has resulted in decisions that reflect the letter of the law rather than the wish list of the radical left.
Hopefully these few proper Constitutional decisions are not a fluke and they continue to do their jobs!
Looks like some of them can actually read and comprehend what Our Constitution Says!
It is also VERY evident that there are an “unholy” THREE that need to be removed, retired or impeached! Censured would be an option but removed PERMANENTLY is best. Legislation from the BENCH is NOT the PURPOSE of The Supreme Court (Judicial Branch) ONLY AS JUDGES… PERIOD!!!!
The sad thing is there were 3 dissenting votes.
You can’t force the blind to see.
Nice, But, What will change ?
It seems good on the surface but I’m wondering exactly who these non profit organizations are and if political non profits are included. Admittedly I don’t know what “mission driven” charities are but I do want complete and utter openness on political contributions, no matter what party they are affiliated with. We really need to restrict political non profits to solely individual contributions, no corps, no groups, no bundling.
I agree with you…mostly. Rather than knowing the donors, though, I think there needs to be a max dollar amount every citizen, company, organization, etc., can donate to any single candidate so that no one can be elected who is obligated to a donor or PAC. Also, NO ORGANIZATION that receives federal funding should be allowed to donate anything to a political party or candidate, as that creates a revolving door where they get government grant money from the successful candidate they have supported who then allocates them more money. Ridiculous! There also needs to be a maximum cap for every candidate to raise and spend on any one election campaign. Whoever raises the most money should NOT be a factor in determining the winner.
Further, individuals or corporations should not be able to donate a very significant amount to an organization that is really nothing more than a pass-through for that money to go to specified candidates. Ways to get around the laws re donations need to be stopped.
It will never happen, but money should have no part in political elections.
Fantastic News! Love it and about time we start seeing some “heels in the sand” to slow such “Politically Correct” (an oxymoron in itself) activities.
It’s about time the S. Court ruled for the people–troubling is the 6-3 vote, should have been unanimous
Does anyone else find it troubling that it was a 6-3 vote?
Not when 3 are socialist that believe the Gov. should rule instead of govern.
Troubling-yes. But I can name the three who voted against it without any research. Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor.
No fair! You peeked!
And you didn’t even need a Schedule B…
That sir is sound judgement!
Bill on the Hill… :~)
Yes, Sue, I do.
But I will take any vote that protects mission oriented institutions from having to compromise their beliefs.
The left would deny faith based organizations their right to oppose abortion or force them to accept the cultural nonsense of the LGBTQ community.
Thanks John, as usual a spot on comment…
Bill on the Hill… :~)