Justices scoff at 'loyalty oath' in AIDS funding issue
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared split on Monday on whether the government can insist that outside groups using its money to fight HIV/AIDS overseas must oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.
The case, which is expected to be decided by late June, presents a test of the First Amendment's right to free speech as well as what strings the government can attach to its money.
At a policy level, it pits two worthy goals against each other: preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and opposing the sex traffic that ensnares young women and girls, particularly in Africa and Asia.
After an hour-long argument, it seemed that the only thing less popular among the justices than the government's “loyalty oath,” as Chief Justice John Roberts put it, was the idea that it can't choose who gets funding.
“The government is just picking out who is an appropriate partner to assist in this project,” Roberts said, comparing it to an anti-smoking campaign that avoids giving money to defenders of smoking.
The justices let loose with a barrage of hypotheticals designed to back up their arguments. Some wondered whether the government could require its vendors to recycle, promote gun control or oppose apartheid. Justice Antonin Scalia argued the government must be able to favor the Boy Scouts over the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the other hand, both conservative and liberal justices worried that the government was trampling on free speech by requiring its partners fighting AIDS to oppose the sex trade. Groups opposed to the mandate argue that it's often more effective to work with prostitutes and brothels to prevent the infection's spread than to criticize them.
“If you want to run a government program, you have to speak the government's speech,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg scoffed disdainfully. Justice Samuel Alito called it “compelled speech,” adding, “It seems to me like quite a dangerous proposition.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Feds fault security of tax info gathered for health care law benefits
- Federal officials: Dallas nurse free of Ebola
- Doctor 1st Ebola virus case in New York City
- Fight against Islamic State at impasse, military commanders say
- Internet providers asked not to take ‘fast lanes’
- Huge gold nugget goes on sale for $400K
- White House may enhance security
- Coburn’s final ‘Wastebook’ tallies $25B in what he considers ‘pork’
- Judge orders W.Va. agency to release pollution data
- Man shot from behind, Wecht’s autopsy finds
- Missouri officials faulted by feds for ‘selective’ probe in police shooting death