Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas for a law that punishes people who boycott Israel, the advocacy group announced.
The lawsuit is based on a complaint by Kansas public school math teacher Esther Koontz -- a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which divested from Israeli companies this year and urged members to do the same.
In July, a new Kansas law went into effect that requires any person or company that contracts with the state to sign a statement that says they are "not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel."
Koontz said the law punishes her for her political beliefs and prevents her from working as a public school teacher and trainer.
"As a member of the Mennonite Church USA, and a person concerned with the human rights of all people -- and specifically the ongoing violations of Palestinians' human rights in Israel and Palestine -- I choose to boycott consumer goods made by Israeli and international companies that profit from the violation of Palestinians' rights," Koontz said.
However, the Kansas State Department of Education told Koontz that to continue as a state contractor she would have to sign a statement that reads, "As an Individual or Contractor entering into a contract with the State of Kansas, it is hereby certified that the Individual or Company listed below is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel."
Koontz wouldn't sign the statement and was subsequently banned from teacher training.
"I was stunned," she said. "It seems preposterous that my decision to participate in a political boycott should have any effect on my ability to work for the state of Kansas."
The ACLU argues that the law violates the First Amendment on several grounds because it "compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression" and "restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression."
The Kansas State Attorney General's Office told The Wichita Eagle it is reviewing the lawsuit.