ACLU sues Kansas for punishing teacher over Israel boycott

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Following its new law, Kansas denied longtime teacher Esther Koontz a new position because of her faith-based boycott of Israel.

By Zaid Jilani / The Intercept / Oct 13, 2017


“This law is clearly aimed at suppressing not just boycotts generally but one particular boycott based on its viewpoint. So we think that’s a blatant constitutional violation and we hope the court agrees with us.”
— Brian Hauss, ACLU staff attorney

“Whether in Kansas or in Congress, this kind of legislation is an anti-democratic attempt to silence a nonviolent movement for equality for Palestinians, and a just peace for everyone in the region. It sets an alarming precedent of curtailing free speech, in an era when mobilizing grassroots energy to resist repressive government policies is more important than ever.”
— Rabbi Joseph Berman, Jewish Voice for Peace government affairs liaison


Esther Koontz is a long-time math teacher and curriculum coach at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita, Kansas.

She’s also a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which in July voted to divest itself from American companies that profit off of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

One month prior to that vote, Kansas’s legislature passed into law House Bill 2409, which seeks to discourage boycotts of the state of Israel by prohibiting state contracts with individuals who refuse to say they will not engage in such boycott activity.

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Mennonite Church Approves Divestment

The Mennonite Church USA approves “withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation” of Palestine.

July 6, 2017


“This resolution is a long overdue response to the Palestinian Christian call to the global church. Today we stand in solidarity with their courageous and nonviolent efforts for justice and equality.”
— Joy Lapp, Professor of Religion at Iowa Wesleyan University


The Mennonite Church USA overwhelmingly approved the resolution “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine” today at its biennial convention in Orlando, Florida. The resolution garnered approximately 98% of the votes of the 548 delegates.

The resolution declares the denomination’s opposition to Israel’s 50-year-old military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories and commits to “withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.” The resolution also urges church members to avoid purchase of products associated with the occupation or produced in Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law and longstanding official US policy, and to advocate for an end to U.S. military aid and arms sales in the Middle East.

The Mennonite Church USA joins with the following churches in taking economic action in support of Palestinian Human Rights.

  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • United Methodist Church
  • United Church of Christ
  • Quakers
  • Unitarian Universalists
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The resolution focuses on ways Mennonites have been involved in harms against both Palestinians and Jews, and names concrete steps to address those harms. It addresses the ongoing reality of anti-Semitism around the world, and the extent to which Mennonites in the U.S. are complicit in Jewish suffering historically, currently, and theologically. Church members are encouraged to build relationships with Palestinian-American, Muslim and Jewish communities in the United States.

[Read the full resolution here . . . ]