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Supreme Court decision protects donors to nonprofits from harassment

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Americans are free to support nonprofit organizations without fear of harassment.

In 2015, a federal lawsuit was filed against then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who had threatened severe sanctions against the Thomas More Law Center if names and contact information of its major donors were not disclosed to her office. In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the center, a leading national public interest law firm. The case, Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, held that California’s law requiring donor disclosure was facially unconstitutional.

The decision will also keep church donations private. Other organizations whose donors faced possible harassment include those who give to pro-life organizations and other groups who work on behalf hot-button cultural issues.

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“When it comes to the freedom of association,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Court’s opinion, “the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual’s ability to join with others to further shared goals. The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough, because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive.”

Richard Thompson, the center’s president and chief counsel, hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling as a “landmark victory for the First Amendment.”

“Today’s victory is attributable to the superb legal work of attorney John J. Bursch and the Alliance Defending Freedom legal team who represented TMLC in the Supreme Court, as well as San Francisco-based attorney Louis H. Castoria, who singlehandedly tried the case in the federal district court against a phalanx of California assistant district attorneys,” he said.

In the internet age, where doxing one’s opponents has led to job loss, boycotts, ostracization and violence, the fear of such repercussions should one’s charitable contributions become public could be enough to stymie giving, leaving the personal beliefs of many Americans to go unrepresented in the public square. While the center is considered by the media as a conservative Christian organization, an array of organizations across the political spectrum filed amicus briefs in support of the First Amendment arguments being made by the Thomas More Law Center.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice