Prompted by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to halt state business with companies that back a boycott of Israel, and the growing interest in several state legislatures in criminalizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, the national officers of the United Church of Christ are speaking out against what they see as an infringement of First Amendment rights.
Here is the text of their statement:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order this week calling on his state’s agencies to boycott and divest from any entity that participates in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement related to Israel/Palestine. The governor’s action bypasses the New York legislature. But in seven states, initiatives to criminalize this targeted movement have already been adopted by state legislatures, and thirteen more are yet to be considered (including New York), according to the Jerusalem Post—this with the US Congress’s encouragement.
The United Church of Christ has actively supported human rights campaigns, sometimes through consumer boycotts and even divestment of companies that have profited from injustice. Most recently, the UCC Board of Directors endorsed a boycott of Wendy’s for not joining the Fair Food Program—refusing to pay a fair wage to Immokalee farm workers in Florida to pick tomatoes. Last summer, the UCC adopted a resolution at its General Synod calling for divestment from “companies that profit from or that are complicit in violations of human rights arising from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by the state of Israel,” and to “boycott goods produced in or using the facilities of illegal settlements located in the West Bank.” While not a full endorsement of Palestinian civil society’s BDS Movement, the UCC’s action clearly supports one of that movement’s calls—an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
The UCC is deeply concerned about the attempts by state legislatures to stifle consumer boycott and responsible investment as expressions of free speech—guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. The UCC remains committed to seeking justice and peace for Israelis and Palestinians, to working to support bringing an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and to using non-violent tactics—including economic leverage—to do so.
We call upon our elected officials at all levels of government to uphold the Constitutional right of free speech, in all its forms, including the right to use economic measures to bring change; we also call on our members, and allies in the quest for justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis, to hold their elected officials accountable to that principle.
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ,
Rev. John Dorhauer
General Minister and President
Rev. James Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries
Rev. Traci Blackmon
Acting Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries