Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CAIR Action Alert 719:
Stop Maryland Legislators from Using Anti-BDS Bills to Restrict Academic Freedom
(COLUMBIA, MD, 2/10/14) -- The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Muslims and other people concerned about constitutional rights in that state to contact their elected representatives to urge that they drop proposed legislation that would restrict academic freedom and free speech rights.
Two unconstitutional bills were recently introduced in Annapolis that are designed to limit First Amendment rights in Maryland universities and college campuses by targeting student groups that participate in the campaign for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS). 
These identical bills - SB647 and HB998 - introduced respectively in the Senate and House by Senator Conway and Delegates Kramer - restrict activities of campus student groups which engage in peaceful boycotts against universities and colleges of other countries. They prohibit peaceful dissent by withholding state funding to Maryland's institutions of higher learning. A similar bill has also been introduced in Congress. 
Local, state, and national organizations are mobilizing to respond to this unconstitutional legislation. In Maryland, organizations defending academic freedom and the Constitution include ACLU-MD, Jewish Voice for Peace, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Jews Say No, Defending Dissent, Jewish Voice for Peace - DC, Center for Constitutional Rights, American Assoc. of University Professors, UMD Students for Justice in Palestine, and many more. 
Yesterday, CAIR joined representatives of Jewish Voice for Peace-DC, the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and other organizations at a legislative forum in Silver Spring, Md. The forum, sponsored by Progressive Maryland, provided an opportunity to speak with elected officials about the unconstitutional bills. 
"All Americans who cherish and value our freedoms should be disturbed when elected officials sworn to uphold the Constitution seek instead to promote foreign interests over the rights of their own constituents," said CAIR's Maryland spokesperson Zainab Chaudry. "The right to boycott is a time-tested form of nonviolent resistance. It has played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and in ending Apartheid in South Africa. Implementing laws that penalize or stifle the voices of others simply because they disagree with a foreign government engaged in an illegal occupation is unconstitutional and un-American."
CAIR has provided a "click and send" letter for all Marylanders to call on elected officials to protect the First Amendment and the right to peaceful political activism. Help us tell them that they must reject SB647 and HB998, support academic freedom; and uphold the Constitutional rights of Maryland universities and student groups that engage in non-violent, political boycotts. 
CONTACT: CAIR's Maryland Spokeswoman Zainab Chaudry, 410-971-6062, zchaudry@cair.com; CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw, 202-488-8787, 202-742-6448, rmccaw@cair.com

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