A New Jersey resident sued two school board members, claiming their pro-Palestinian comments “negatively impacted the educational welfare of the District’s Jewish students”.
“[The resident] is attempting to utilize antisemitism as a veil for what is really a racially motivated attempt to silence the [school board members]…”
“[The resident] does not have a right to silence and completely prohibit the [school board members] from enouncing fact-based statements and personal experiences.”
Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | August 10, 2022 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has filed an amicus brief, or “friend of the court” brief, in a case before New Jersey’s Court of Appeals. The brief was submitted in support of two Palestinian-American Clifton School Board members who, in 2021, spoke in support of the Palestinian people during a school board meeting. A Teaneck resident, who has no connection to the school district, took offense to the personal testimony of what multiple international human rights organizations have determined is the crime of apartheid committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people, and sued the two members for violating New Jersey’s School Ethics Act. After New Jersey’s School Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint, the resident appealed the decision before the state’s Court of Appeals.
In response to this appeal, ADC filed a brief supporting the school board members’ right to speak freely about their personal tragedies The resident, who themselves were kicked off of a different school board for ethical violations, is attempting to use the government to limit the ability of the public school board members to speak freely. In its brief, ADC argues that leveraging state ethics laws to impose viewpoint discrimination, or discrimination that limits speech based on the opinion or perspective taken by the speaker, is an unconstitutional form of governmental speech regulation.
ADC also forcefully rebutted the resident’s contention that the board members’ statements were antisemitic, highlighting that the statements were fact-based criticisms about the policies of the state of Israel that did not invoke the Jewish people or religion. Numerous definitions of antisemitism state that political criticisms of the state of Israel are not antisemetic. ADC supports the board members’ right to freely criticize the state of Israel without governmental reprisal, just as any individual can criticize the United States without fear of being silenced or punished by the government.
In filing the brief, ADC released the following statement: “Attempting to use the levers of government to stifle speech you disagree with is as un-American as it comes. We at ADC will continue to fight for the rights of Arab Americans, and will always support those who join us in that fight.”
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing discrimination due to Arab heritage or pro-Palestinian speech, please email ADC’s Legal Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.