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Supreme Court: Anti-prostitution pledge in AIDS law violates free speech

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He quoted former Justice Robert Jackson’s famous opinion in a landmark First Amendment case: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

In a dissent, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said the government was free to seek out those who agree with its ideas and enlist their assistance in effectively spending government money to achieve its goals.

“In the end, and in the circumstances of this case, compelling as a condition of federal funding the affirmation of a belief is no compulsion at all,” Scalia said.

“It is the reasonable price of admission to a limited government-spending program that each organization remains free to accept or reject,” he said.

The central issue in the case was whether the government could force participants in a federal program to espouse a certain policy position as a condition of receiving US funding.

“This decision is a victory for human rights,” Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, said in a statement. “The anti-prostitution loyalty oath was based on discrimination against one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection, and had nothing to do with evidence or best practices.”

“This will allow organizations fighting HIV to address the epidemic in the most effective way possible,” Ms. Sippel said.

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