You're Against Prostitution…Aren't You??


The Brennan Center for Justice files a FOIA suit to try to get the government to acknowledge that even its own Office of Legal Counsel knew that one of its absurd demands is unconstitutional: the demand that any organization receiving federal funds related to AIDS work pledge that it has "a policy explictly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking."

Details from a press release I was emailed, but can't find online yet:

Today, the Brennan Center for Justice is filing a federal lawsuit to compel release of a long-suppressed Bush-era legal opinion; the opinion in question purportedly acknowledges that a federal law -- which requires organizations receiving federal grants for HIV/AIDS work to pledge opposition to  prostitution -- may be unconstitutional.  

The opinion was drafted in 2004 by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) housed within the Department of Justice (DOJ)….The nonprofit community opposes the law because it hampers their HIV/AIDS prevention work with prostitutes and others vulnerable to the pandemic…. 

The opinion sought in today's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was issued in February 2004 but was not publically disclosed. It purportedly states that the Constitution bars federal agencies from enforcing the pledge requirement against U.S. organizations.  In September 2004, OLC withdrew that opinion in a letter that said "reasonable arguments" support the statute's constitutionality.  The impetus for the FOIA request was a lawsuit, Alliance for Open Society International v. USAID, that challenged the statute. The Judge in that case enjoined enforcement against most U.S. organizations pending a final ruling in the case.

Lots of people find these sorts of "he who pays the piper calls the tune" arguments persuasive, which is all the more reason it's important to make sure the government is paying fewer pipers.

In August 2005, Kerry Howley wrote for Reason Online about entrepreneur Phil Harvey's fight against this absurd government demand.