New Jersey Governor

There are companies in New Jersey that do not want to do international business with Israel. They claim that Israel has violated the human rights of those living in Palestine, and they'd like to withhold their business on those grounds. This movement has been termed the "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement, or the BDS.

However, New Jersey governor Chris Christie recently took steps to fight back against this movement, signing into law a bill that will effectively seek to punish these companies. The new law means the state government has to determine which companies support the boycott, and then the State Investment Council must blacklist them and refuse to work with them.

An Unconstitutional Measure

Not only are there groups that oppose this new law, but the American Civil Liberties Union has even gone so far as to call it unconstitutional. They claim it violates the First Amendment and the right to free speech. They say that the precedent it sets for government action based on the thoughts and ideas of others is dangerous. They say it allows the government to punish people not for what they've done, but for what they believe, and they also say there are serious constitutional concerns with a law that gives the government this type of power.

Future Concerns

One of the most interesting legal aspects of this law is the idea of setting a precedent. Even those who do not have any stake in this particular disagreement -- perhaps because they're not doing any overseas business to begin with -- have to wonder how else this law could be applied, and what other laws could be drafted along similar lines, about different issues.

The Right to Free Speech

People often talk about the right to free speech, but it is not often that it comes up in such a concrete and controversial manner. It's critical for all citizens to understand just what their constitutional rights are when voting on measures or electing the officials who help to craft local laws.