By Eugene Kontorovich
Gov. Cuomo’s recent executive order requiring state agencies to divest from companies that boycott Israel has led boycott proponents to claim he’s violating the First Amendment, which safeguards free expression, and particularly political speech.
Cuomo’s order comes as numerous states have passed anti-boycott legislation in the past year. As these legislators understand, there is no free speech problem here. States have a right to refuse to spend their money on what they view as bigoted or improper conduct.
The First Amendment protects speech, not conduct. The Supreme Court unanimously held, in a case called Rumsfeld vs. FAIR, that the government can deny federal funding to universities that boycott military recruiters. Even though that boycott was based on political considerations, that did not make it protected speech.