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Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting BDS

By Stephen Lendman | October 18, 2017

Barring longtime math teacher Esther Koontz from renewing her teaching contract, solely for her political beliefs, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.

She righteously supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

She supports Palestinian rights. Her employment papers require a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.

The Kansas law is unconstitutional. The ACLU supports Koontz. Last week on its web site, she headlined “Kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel,” saying:

“Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.”

“I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.”

As a Mennonite Church USA member concerned about human rights, notably longstanding abusive Israeli practices against Palestinians, she won’t buy products made by Israeli companies or from businesses profiting from its ruthlessness.

She’s inspired by how activism helped end South African apartheid, wanting to help the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Last summer, a Kansas State Department of Education email said to participate in its math training program, she’s required “to sign a certification stating that I don’t boycott Israel,” she said.

She was “stunned,” refusing to sign “as a matter of conscience.” Asking if she could still participate in the state’s training program, she was told she could not.

She’s challenging the decision with ACLU help, a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf. A public school math teacher for nine years, she’s trained to teach others how to teach her discipline.

“The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons,” said the ACLU:

“(I)t compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint.”

The suit calls for striking down the Kansas law and barring its Department of Education from requiring contractor/teachers like Koontz from certifying no support for BDS activism.

The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, upheld by Supreme Court rulings. American Revolution supporters boycotted British goods.

Colonists refused to obey the UK Stamp Act. They boycotted British goods in protest. Shop owners signed non-importation agreements. They rejected taxation without representation.

America’s first Supreme Court chief justice John Jay boycotted New York merchants engaged in the slave trade.

The mid-1950s Montgomery bus boycott was a major turning point in the struggle for civil rights. Nationwide anti-war protests in the 1960s and early 70s helped end the Vietnam war.

Boycotts and protests are an American tradition – at risk by extremist governance wanting them curtailed or abolished.

The First Amendment protects these rights. Denying them puts all others at risk.

No federal, state or local authority can legally curtail or prevent free expression in all its forms. Nor is requiring individuals indicate their political beliefs a prerequisite for employment.

If justice is to be served, Koontz will prevail in court, including the Supreme Court if her case goes that far, the unconstitutional Kansas law annulled.

Stephen Lendman’s newest book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

October 18, 2017 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. When the protection of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people, overrides the Constitutional right of Americans to Free Speech, you know that the power of AIPAC and the Dual Citizens in the highest level of American politics, has reached an extremely dangerous point for the American people.
    Outlawing the BDS movement in the USA, and the routinely used charge of “Anti-Semitism” against ANYONE for criticising Israel’s behaviour has reached the point of “completely ridiculous”.
    The USA is in BIG trouble when it’s citizens are unable to express their concern for where the USA is headed. Politics in the USA is rotten to the core, corrupted by “Big Money”, and unless something is done soon to fix the problem, the USA is doomed.

    Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | October 18, 2017 | Reply

  2. Go Ms. Koontz! Go Mennonites! Go BDS!

    Palestine Is Still THE Issue!

    Thanks to the tireless truth teller Stephen Lendman and to Aletho News for posting him.

    Comment by roberthstiver | October 19, 2017 | Reply

  3. You Aletho, You Esther Koontz and you Brian don’t know the real situation and you don’t want to know, in the Israeli-Pal dispute. Israel is occupying the place after it was conquered, following Jordan’s attack, together with Egypt and Syria, of Israel. According to the international law, the only one that can claim the land is the one that it was conquered from him. It is Jordan. they never claim it as they are fed up with Palestinians.The Bds, that you support, Esther, is a bunch of stupid people that wherever they meet Israeltheylose because Israel is the right side in this case. the only places that the BDS won were the places that they can physically, not wisely, fought like in UNESCO and universities. But, in the long run, they/you will lose. I suggest that you learn better the situation and make your mind in addition to the vast killing of Arabs/Muslims/each other.
    Please rethink and ask-I will answer every question
    In friendship
    Amir

    Comment by seelistenunderstand | October 19, 2017 | Reply

    • Your comment is Vague and Rambling………it is nonsensical…….”Must try harder”.

      Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | October 19, 2017 | Reply

      • This is a typical reply of somebody that does have an answer. Please quote evidence not rumors.

        Comment by seelistenunderstand | October 20, 2017 | Reply

        • How can one reply to your comment when it amounts to nothing more that “Verbal Diarrhoea”……..

          Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | October 20, 2017 | Reply

    • BDS Israel and their trolls

      Comment by Wallflower | October 19, 2017 | Reply

      • Correction…BDS Israel and their FUGLY trolls

        Comment by Wallflower | October 19, 2017 | Reply

    • Here’s a question Amir – I look forward to your answer. When and where, during the violence of 1947-48 between the Arab Army and the pre-Israeli militias, did they fight inside the declared borders of Israel – that is, the ones that Israel signed up to when it was accepted as a member by the United Nations?

      Comment by Refusenik | October 19, 2017 | Reply

      • Shalom refusenik
        Yes, the Arabs did attack Israel, internaly. Where? they blocked the way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They attacked many kibbutzim, not on the way to Jerusalem, but also in the Negev and in the Galil.
        Actually, at the evening of the decision of UN that part of the biblical land of Israel is for Jews-the Arabs opened a general assault on Israeli/Jewish settlements. Fortunately, the Arabs were defeated bytyheIsraeli forces/militias, as you called them, as Israel, at that time did not have an army and the forces that fought for Israel were collected in the street without any arms. Yes, this is the story Mr. Refusenik. I suggest that you look for history books/documents to learn more how a nation that survived the holocaust and are fighting all its history against evils became one of the most appreciated states, if not the appreciated one among the world most advanced powers.

        Comment by seelistenunderstand | October 20, 2017 | Reply


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