BY JUSTIN OWEN
Philanthropic giving is a staple of the American Way. Last year alone, Americans gave more than $358 billion to charity. This allows us to feed the homeless, rescue deserted pets, give treatment to sick patients, provide children with a quality education, and the list goes on. And all $358 billion was given voluntarily, a willingness by millions of Americans to donate their hard-earned money to causes they hold near and dear to their hearts.
But the U.S. Supreme Court could change all that. Today, the nation’s highest court will consider whether to hear a case from California that could have a massive chilling effect on charitable giving. Imagine a world where your most intimate choices were exposed publicly. Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, that could become a stark reality all across our country.
At issue is whether the Attorney General of California can demand that private individual’s charitable giving be posted on a public government list. The goal of the far-Left AG is to squelch charitable giving to groups with whom she disagrees.
Sadly, we’ve been down this treacherous road once before. Yet it wasn’t a tea party group that was the target. It was the NAACP. In the 1950s, a judge in Alabama ruled that the NAACP would have to publish a list of its supporters. That was thankfully overturned by the Supreme Court in a decision that acknowledged the rights to free speech and free association.
The Beacon Center protects the privacy of our supporters—and is able to do so thanks to the bravery of the NAACP to fight for, and the wisdom of the Supreme Court to uphold, these cherished rights. Most nonprofits also protect the rights of their donors to give privately, from the ACLU to Planned Parenthood to the United Way.
Forcing Americans to post their voluntary donations on a government list could have far-reaching ramifications, outside their First Amendment rights. If your boss is avidly pro-life, you might get fired for donating to a pro-abortion group. If you want to join your local tea party, your house might get vandalized by a band of Occupy Wall Street-ers. No longer would your decision to support causes you believe in be a personal one; it would be made public for all to see and act upon.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court sees the California AG’s efforts for what they are: an ideological witch-hunt that threatens all Americans. Otherwise, not only will donors to charitable causes suffer, but more importantly those who benefit from their compassion—the underprivileged child, the homeless veteran, the cancer patient—will suffer even more.