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Supreme Court Says U.S. Can't Impose Views on Aid Recipients




 

WASHINGTON - The federal government may not require grant recipients to adopt its policy views as a funding condition, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The issue arose in a program intended to fight HIV and AIDS overseas. In order to receive funding, foreign aid groups were required by a 2003 law to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. Nonprofit groups engaged in such work in Central Asia and Africa contended the requirement violated their First Amendment free-speech rights.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed. While the high court previously has held the government can block grant recipients from raising or advocating certain issues when conducting publicly funded activities, imposing a duty to embrace official views goes too far, the court found.

The overseas aid groups said they don't advocate prostitution or sex-trafficking, but they said their work might be impeded if they were required to take positions that are controversial in the disease-prevention field or that might alienate prostitutes and others whom they are trying to reach.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority opinion. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented. Justice Elena Kagan, who was solicitor general at earlier stages of the litigation, didn't participate in the case.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@wsj.com



 


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Information in this article was accurate in June 20, 2013. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.