Texas

A Texas Speech Pathologist Sues for Her 1st Amendment Right to Boycott Israel

Bahia Amawi's political beliefs have nothing to do with her skill as a speech pathologist.

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Maxfx/Dreamstime.com

If Bahia Amawi wants to keep helping speech-impaired students in her Austin public school, she'll have to sign an oath promising not to engage in a boycott of Israel.

The Intercept reports that Amawi, a child language specialist, was born in Austria, speaks three languages, and obtained a Master's degree in speech pathology in 1999. She's worked as a contractor with the Pflugerville Independent School District since 2009. Her employers do not appear to have had any issues with her until she was presented with a new contract this year. Amawi noticed a provision in the document stating that she "does not currently boycott Israel" and "will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract." For Amawi's personal reasons, she could not agree to these terms.

A federal lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Texas on Monday. The suit argues that the provision violates Amawi's First Amendment right of free speech.

Amawi's contract is not the first of its kind. In 2017, Texas became the 17th state to pass a law disavowing boycotts of Israel. House Bill 89, also known as the anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions) law, allowed the Texas Comptroller's Office to make a list of companies that boycotted Israel with the intention of barring them from future government contracts. Gov. Greg Abbott applauded the measure, saying, "Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented a Mennonite math teacher who objected to a Kansas law requiring any company or person contracting with the state to not be "currently engaged in a boycott of Israel." Earlier this year, in response to the ACLU's suit, a court decided that forcing people to choose between personal beliefs and state employment was "plainly unconstitutional."

Texas' anit-BDS law also reared its head following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. An application for disaster relief grants in Dickinson, a Houston suburb, included a section titled, "Verification not to Boycott Israel." Here, applicants for disaster relief were expected to certify that they did not boycott Israel and would not pursue a boycott of Israel while receiving assistance.

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76 responses to “A Texas Speech Pathologist Sues for Her 1st Amendment Right to Boycott Israel

  1. She has no more free speech rights than a conservative professor. How is this even an issue?

    1. Why is it an issue that a government employer is trying to enforce views on its employees? Views not relevant to the job or the security of the government?

      Yeesh.

      1. Rules are important and must be obeyed because rules.

        /some idiot in a thread about houses in SFO.

        1. Also, some idiot in a thread about cops attacking a mother and baby for sitting on the floor.

      2. Tell that to the conservative professors have been shut down because of their outspokenness!
        Now according to your statement a government employee SHOULD NOT BE PREVENTED from stating their support for ISIS or even the Taliban or from giving and comfort (by words only) to them.

  2. Why not make her sign a contract promising to bake cakes for gay Jews? That would be perfectly constitutional.

    1. Yep Eddy,

      I also think that many of her supporters would feel differently about a publishing company selling textbooks to schools if the company is so committed to freedom of the press it boycotts all countries that outlaw Mohammed Cartoons.

  3. If she came out pro-Nazi, she’d have no job either.

    Then again, odds are, she is pro-Nazi also.

    1. She didn’t “come out” anything. Her position was demanded on her contract application.

  4. how does individual boycott a nation?

    1. Same as any boycott. You avoid buying their products. In the case of Israel, it would mean not buying the products of companies that are based in Israel.. Who that is, I dunno, I’ve never tried to boycott Israel so it’s not something I’ve looked up.

      1. I for one will NOT be buying an Uzi (Israeli company) but not because of a boycott of Israel, but because my Uncle Sammy will not allow me. :sad_face_emoji:

        1. A true BDS’er would forego generic drugs made by Gilead or Teva for more expensive, brand name drugs.

          I suspect there aren’t that many true BDS’ers.

          1. Intel has a research facility in Israel. Anyone using a smart phone or computer is not following the boycott against Israel. The BDS’ers virtue signal by only boycotting things they don’t particularly want anyway.

      2. Kinda hard to do because Israel has a strong technology export base. A lot of the startups get bought up. Anybody have Waze on your phone?

        Israel does not need to worry about this person. Let her boycott whatever she wants.

        1. Israel does not need to worry about any single person, but sensible Israelis should be fearful of the prospect that it will lose American support — and American military, economic, and political skirts to hide behind — as support for immoral right-wing Israeli belligerence becomes a left-right divider in American politics, with Israel on the wrong side of that divide.

          1. Meh, these days, the “left” no longer believes in freedom of speech. The “left” now assumes that women need to be protected like in the Victorian Era, especially from college aged men with darker skin. The “left” views society through group affiliation. Even Democrats are getting tired of the trend. You can’t run a party on the backs of people who keep changing their unyielding principles.

    2. I recently found out I was inadvertently boycotting Lithuania by not buying or selling anything Lithuanian. Also at least half the countries on the planet. I feel so dirty.

      1. exactly. ludicrous. school knows what she purchases and why/not?

    3. Ask that question after large groups canceled meetings in Israel.

  5. It’s a silly law and should be overturned.

    1. I thought Austin was inhabited by leftists. Or is that just Houston?

      1. leftists, and Greg Abbott.

      2. The city of Austin Tx. is but the state capitol is mostly republicans yet. Now later with more Betos running for office that will not be the case. But then again not long after then it will change again when the whole of the US comes under progressive/leftest control and the US becomes another has been.

    2. Yep. I very pro Israel, and not a big booster of anti Israeli folks with September 11thy names like hers. However, this is just stupid. She’s free to not buy as much stuff from Israel as she wants.

      1. No law will stop that either as long as the products are available for sale in the US. It has not prevented some people giving vocal material support to ISIS and some have even traveled over to them to fight with them.

  6. Idle question, if the school in question was a “charter school” and doing this, but not because of a state law, would that swap folk’s position on this?

    1. Charter schools are still technically public schools, aren’t they? I don’t see how it would make much difference in this case.

      1. Generally, no, charter schools are not public schools. It varies by state, of course, but more commonly they are secular private schools operating under government license (as are all private schools).

        1. Private schools that receive no government support are “PRIVATE” and most are not licensed by the government.

          1. Sorry, Curly, but you are wrong. All schools in the US offering a general education sufficient to meet the truancy requirements are licensed by the government. In the context of schools, we call that license “accreditation”.

            The only unlicensed schools are things like Sunday school and Big Bob’s School of Piano.

            Note also that “receiving government support” is not a pure threshold for “private” either. Many undeniably private colleges nevertheless educate students for whom the government pays through, for example, the GI Bill.

    2. Some, maybe.

      Not mine, since my position is “she can boycott anything she wants on her own time, but not on/related to the job, if her employer doesn’t approve”.

  7. Seriously, though, are progs going to defend a constitutional right to associate, or not associate, with others?

    Are they willing to apply their new-found principle consistently?

    1. (Another issue is whether Texas can get into this sort of foreign-policy territory)

    2. You have to understand that under ends-justifies-the-means reasoning, you can create an argument for any conclusion you want. So it doesn’t even enter their minds in the first place that an inconsistency in their claims would ever be an issue. So, yes, yes, and in actuality, no, no.

    3. Well, no the progs are not going to defend a constitutional right to associate or not because then they would not be able to hammer the conservatives for their associations that keep.

  8. “Boycott on her own time”, yes, clearly none of their business.

    “Boycott as a matter of professional activity”, I could allow as being related to her job.

    Since she’s a speech pathologist, I can’t think of any way she’d ever really even have a meaningful chance to do the latter, so …

    (Either the contract is a no-op for her, or it’s trying to police her private life. The former, meh. The latter, she should fight, and win.)

    1. “Since she’s a speech pathologist, I can’t think of any way she’d ever really even have a meaningful chance to do the latter, so …”

      I can think of a way. It depends on the existence of a hypothetical speech pathology methodology developed by an Israeli individual or institution, for which the materials are only available from that Israeli individual or institution.

  9. She should find another job.

  10. Earlier this year, in response to the ACLU’s suit, a court decided that forcing people to choose between personal beliefs and state employment was “plainly unconstitutional.”

    Weird how this never seems to apply to people on the right. THEIR personal beliefs can be routinely used to keep them from state employment–with Reason’s blessing.

  11. She works for a contractor for the public school district, i.e. she is not a government employee.

    Private companies have no obligation under 1A. She can quit.

    1. That’s not how it works. In Texas at least, almost all personnel who are not on site full-time (ie: music teachers for instruments, assistants, etc) are actually contract personnel, with a contract directly with the district. That is what this contract is, a contract between the speech teacher and the district.

      The requirement to support a certain political position in order to be a customer or vendor of a school district is unfathomable. I seriously cannot understand how anyone can find this acceptable

      1. The legal definition of an ethnicity is basically a population from a geographical place with a shared culture that one can be born into. Boycotting a nation is boycotting an ethnicity. How many progs would defend a government contractor who boycotted Somalia?

        1. a population from a geographical place with a shared culture

          Which does not describe Jews. Jewish people come from all over the world, from many different cultures.

          Boycotting a nation is boycotting an ethnicity.

          No, it isn’t. Nations can include multiple ethnicities. In fact, in today’s world, most nations do. Including Israel.

  12. Would it be OK to have a law that requires employees to boycott Israel?

    1. We already have one in the case of Yemen (see other article on this website), North Korea and Iran.

  13. Is there some reason to believe her boycott would interfere with her work?

    1. *** scratches head ***

      Well, it might exacerbate stuttering.

    2. Yes. She hates Jews. She might have Jewish students.

      1. Jews ? Israel

        1. True enough, but some people, many of them in the BDS movement, are a bit vague on the difference.

        2. Israel is the Jewish homeland.

          Jews are the literal children of Israel.

          There is no hatred or boycott of just one, without the other.

          This woman is a bigot.

          Let her find a different teat to suckle than one attached to the people of Texas.

          1. Mysticism has no place in public policy.

            1. By that logic, the legend of King Author nullifies any claim Anglos have on England.

              1. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that the Anglo-Saxons had any claim on England other than by right of conquest. Today we’re trying to upgrade standards of international relations and seizing another country by force is now considered impolite.

        3. Brits do no not equal UK.

          Mexicans do not equal Mexico.

          Catholics do not equal Vatican City.

          We can go on like this for over 100 other countries. There is a reason every branch of Judaism in the USA feels entitled to pray at the Western Wall according to their tradition.

          1. Huh?

        4. Brits do no not equal UK.

          Mexicans do not equal Mexico.

          Catholics do not equal Vatican City.

          We can go on like this for over 100 other countries. There is a reason every branch of Judaism in the USA feels entitled to pray at the Western Wall according to their tradition.

    3. I would if it prevented her aiding a immigrant (legal or illegal) from Israel. But if this is not what she is doing now she will not be doing it in the future.

  14. I apologize for the stupidity of certain persons in my state. I don’t know how anyone can consider this constitutional.

    1. The constitution doesn’t guarantee anyone employment at the government teat. Especially a government that is economically tied with the only democracy between Greece and India.

  15. The ACLU’s argument appears to be untenable. Personal beliefs include objectionable personal beliefs such as racism and bigotry. Yet courts have regularly and repeatedly upheld decisions that required prospective employees to choose between their personal beliefs and state employment.

    1. Those beliefs are unconstitutional or they could not be enforced.

  16. The problem is that BDS is not about Israel, it’s about Jews. Anyone that supports it is anti-semitic and openly so.

    Can someone who might have to teach Jewish students, because a vocal proponent of hatred against them?

  17. While I do support Israel, as a fellow Austonite, I also support her right to boycott whoever and whatever she wants as long as she does not use her job to somehow justify her position. The 1st Amendment gives us freedom of speech, and being a free-market gives us a basic right of freedom of where we spend our money.

  18. Oh, and also…

    You know who else was born in Austria?

    1. Arnold?

  19. I don’t think a state has the authority to demand an employee not boycott anything in their personal life. On the other hand, like that instructor who refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student planning to study in Israel, work relevent boycotts can be punished.

  20. No comment.

    Hitlary for OberC?ckenFuhrer 2020 approves this message.

  21. The glitch is that she is being treated as a corporation.

    Texas does not do business with corporations that boycott Israel. This is weird but doesn’t bother me.

    Texas doesn’t refuse to do business with companies whose employees may not be fond of Israel.

    The real world answer is to just sign the damned thing and go about her business. Assume it is unenforceable and stay off Facebook like any sensible person.

  22. You antisemitic Rhomites don’t dissapoint ibn your support of this Nazi boycott against the Jews. I knew you’d be for it, just as you support the viciously antisemitic Students for Justice for Palestine. Jews don’t even have the right not to be blown apart by you Nazi types so why should there not be a Nazi style boycott against them. This is an act of war against an ally, but what does one expect from holocaust deniers?

    There’s o need to fear. Underzog is here.”

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  24. Incidentally, you guys got the story wrong, The boycott refers to companies — not the antisemitic, grandstanding, Nazi Muslim. Review what the law really says before you shoot false information about the Jews. Oops == that would take away your raison d’etre,, so it is impossible for you to report anything on the Jews fairly or accuratley

    “There’s no ned to fear. Underzog is here.”

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