TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Justices scoff at 'loyalty oath' in AIDS funding issue

Daily Photo Galleries

By USA Today
Sunday, June 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

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.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Run from Cuba, Americans cling to claims for seized property
  2. Republican presidential hopefuls near-unanimity on the issue of their own guns
  3. Mysteries of dark matter come to light in Science study
  4. American crash victims: U.S. government contractor, daughter
  5. 11 ATF drones that cost $615K never used, watchdog finds
  6. Gun used by agent who helped jail Capone headed to museum
  7. Abortion law fight builds in Alabama
  8. War-torn Afghanistan’s new president wants Obama to keep full military presence
  9. Luxury resort founder owes $74M in taxes
  10. Bergdahl deserted his post, military says; he could get life behind bars
  11. Veterans Affairs construction chief retires amid criticism over project delays, ballooning costs