By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court has ruled that a California law requiring charities to disclose the identities of their donors is unconstitutional.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts called such disclosure requirements a “dragnet for sensitive donor information” and found that such a law violates an individual’s First Amendment right to free association.
Big Brother may always be watching – but after Thursday’s ruling, he won’t be seeing as much as some government bureaucrats and bullies wished he would.
I applaud this decision of the six justices, who in addition to Chief Justice Roberts included Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett.
In the decision, Chief Justice Roberts noted that the government would have to have a compelling reason to require such personal information – a high bar which the state of California failed to clear. The ruling was a clear victory for the Thomas More Law Center and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation – organizations that objected to turning over their donor lists.
Focus on the Family has always gone to great lengths to protect the privacy of its supporters. Our reasons and convictions behind this policy are both practical and principled.
First off, we consider it our responsibility to fiercely protect any personal information that someone entrusts to us – including their name, address, banking information and any other details that can be exploited to steal a person’s identity.
History has shown that donor information has been hacked from these types of government reporting lists – an event that unleashes a cascading, nightmare scenario for those caught up in the crime. Sadly, states like California have not done enough to protect their citizens.
Back in 2012, an individual with the IRS leaked information on individuals who donated to the National Institute of Marriage. Names and addresses were published online. One of my friends on that list was targeted in a hateful advertising campaign. After the disclosure, donations to the marriage institute dropped 400%. The IRS eventually agreed to pay $50,000 in damages.
During the same time frame, you’ll remember the allegations the IRS specifically targeted conservative groups for increased scrutiny. Lois Lerner, the former IRS director who was responsible for the division evaluating organizations applying for 501(C)(3) status, pleaded the fifth and refused to answer questions.
According to lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court, there have been 1,800 examples of documents regarding donor information negligently published online.
Second, it’s clear to me that California’s law was designed to intimidate and discourage individuals from donating to conservative causes. As evidenced in the National Institute of Marriage, disclosing donor information has a chilling effect on giving. Those who may hold privately to socially unpopular convictions usually don’t want to have their names put on a public list and be cancelled by culture’s elites.
The headlines are already full of examples of conservatives being harassed, from a United States senator being attacked while mowing his lawn to right-of-center students being assaulted on campus. If allowed to stand, these types of donor disclosure laws would inevitably only exacerbate an already dangerous trend.
It’s ironic that some of the same people who demand “privacy” when it comes to moral issues like abortion are so quick to violate a conservative organization’s right to protect the privacy of its supporters.
Today’s decision marks the end of this year’s Supreme Court term and sets the stage for what promises to be an eventful and consequential season beginning in the fall when the justices hear the Mississippi abortion law case.
Please join me in thanking God for the justice rendered today – and praying that truth and light will prevail in the months to come.