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Speech pathologist sues Texas school district for denying her a job when she refused to sign an anti-BDS pledge


Contractor Bahia Amawi says the state's law requiring all freelancers to sign a pledge to not boycott Israel violates the First Amendment

Image source: Video screenshot

Speech pathologist Bahia Amawi is suing the Pflugerville Independent School District and the attorney general of Texas, after she was denied a contract renewal because of her refusal to sign a pledge that she would not boycott Israel.

In her lawsuit, Amawi argues that "Texas's ban on contracting with any boycotter of Israel constitutes viewpoint discrimination that chills constitutionally-protected political advocacy in support of Palestine."

What are the details?

Amawi has contracted with the school district providing language assessment services for the past nine years. In August, she was presented with a contract for the upcoming school year. Weeks later, the suit alleges, the school district provided Amawi with an addendum to the contract, requiring Amawi to affirm "that she does not currently boycott Israel and will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract."

Citing moral issues, Amawi — who is of Palestinian descent and has lived in the U.S. for 30 years — refused to sign the anti-boycott addendum, and her contract was not renewed because of a Texas law, commonly known as the "anti-BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] law," that went into effect on Sept. 1, 2017. BDS is a movement that endorses boycotting the Jewish state.

Texas became the 17th state to pass an anti-BDS law, which is intended to signal "strong support for Israel."

The school district addressed the issue via Facebook, explaining that it was "at the mercy of the state," given that the contract language "is required by the State of Texas for all school districts in Texas, along with other governmental entities."

But Amawi argues the government should not be able to force her to make a pledge inconsistent with her beliefs.

"It's baffling that they can throw this down our throats and decide to protect another country's economy versus protecting our constitutional rights," she told the Intercept.

Amawi insists that she's not a major activist, just "a busy mom of four kids," who didn't feel like she had an option not to fight the law because she teaches her children that "if you see something wrong, you have to fix it."

Anything else?

Amawi isn't the only one suing. On Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations also announced it was challenging the law because victims of Hurricane Harvey were reportedly required to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel prior to receiving assistance in the town of Dickinson, Texas.

In response to that lawsuit, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted simply: "Texas stands with Israel. Period."

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas also filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton, two universities, and two school districts, challenging the anti-BDS law.

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