On October 11, 2017, the ACLU and the ACLU of Kansas filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas over a state law that requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.”
The ACLU represents Esther Koontz, who belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. In accordance with calls for boycott made by members of her congregation and her church, Ms. Koontz chooses not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Ms. Koontz participates in this boycott in order to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and to pressure the country to change its policies.
Ms. Koontz has served as a public school math teacher for nine years, and was preparing to begin training math teachers across the state as a contractor with the Kansas Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships program when she was asked to sign the certification. After responding that she could not sign the certification in good conscience, Ms. Koontz was told she could no longer participate in the program.
The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons: it compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the law and bar the Kansas Department of Education from requiring contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.
On January 30, 2018, the court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state of Kansas from requiring state contractors to declare that they are not participating in a boycott of Israel while the case proceeds.