The Arkansas Division of Building Authority has issued more than 1,500 contracts since August 2017 when a new state law went into effect that requires contractors sign a pledge they are not boycotting Israel.
A potential First Amendment violation, Arkansas Code Annotated 25-1-501 "prohibits public entities from contracting with and investing in companies that boycott Israel."
The pledge is required on state jobs of $1,000 or more. A Fort Smith area architect brought the law to the Times Record’s attention in May, noting the firm has "no political axe to grind with either Israel or Palestinians, but this is a rather remarkable thing to require of a citizen in order to get a job."
The Arkansas certification reads "I hereby certify that pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated 25-1-501 et seq., neither I or the company named below are currently engaged in any boycott (s) of Israel. Additionally, I and the company named below agree not to engage in any boycotting of Israel activities for the duration of this construction contract."
The American Civil Liberties Union won a case in Kansas in January arguing a Kansas law that required a public school educator to certify that she will not boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.
In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote, "(T)he Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law."
Following a revision in March to the national level proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would criminalize participation in certain political boycotts targeting Israel, ACLU attorney Brian Hauss noted "political boycotts are fully protected by the First Amendment" and "the Supreme Court made that clear when it recognized, in a landmark 1982 decision called NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, that the Constitution protected a 1960s boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi."