WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court heard telephone arguments on a case involving the HIV/AIDS epidemic and free speech on Tuesday.
National Public Radio reported that the cases is on if the government can require private nonprofits to denounce prostitution in order to qualify for U.S foreign aid grants aimed at fighting the worldwide AIDS epidemic.
In 2003, Congress, at the urging of President George W. Bush, enacted a major foreign aid program to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic and prevent new infections worldwide. In appropriating the money, Congress included a provision requiring any private organization that received funding through the program to adopt an explicit policy denouncing prostitution and sex trafficking.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down that provision, declaring it unconstitutional because it compelled U.S. nonprofits to adopt an explicit policy as a condition for receiving grant money. By a 6-2 vote, the high court said such a requirement interfered with the free speech rights of private U.S. organizations engaged in the fight against AIDS.
The case was back Tuesday, but this time, the question was whether foreign organizations closely affiliated with those same U.S. nonprofits can be required to adopt the policy denouncing prostitution.
Defending the provision was Assistant to the Solicitor General Christopher Michel. He argued that foreign affiliates of U.S. organizations like Save The Children, CARE and WorldVision are separate legal entities from their parent U.S. organizations, and that as foreign entities, they have no rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Michel told the court that if U.S. non-profits choose to work through a foreign affiliate, “they have to accept the bitter with the sweet.”
Representing non-profits, David Bowker said that for all practical purposes, there is no difference between the U.S. non-profits and their foreign affiliates, so making the affiliate adopt an anti-prostitution message effectively puts words in the mouth of the U.S. entity.
A decision is expected sometime this summer.