Cutting federal strings

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Like a deal with the devil, accepting money from the federal government comes with strings. Whether it be the National Collegiate Athletic Association or the National Endowment for the Arts or organizations in between, accepting taxpayer dollars necessarily means abiding by terms and conditions set by Congress.

Four AIDS-fighting groups are irritated that the federal government asks them to take a pledge against prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving taxpayer cash. The four plaintiff organizations contend that taking this “anti-prostitution pledge” violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and restricts their abilities to work with other health organizations. The Supreme Court heard their plea last week in the case Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International.

The administration defends the anti-prostitution pledge law, saying it’s reasonable to ask groups that receive anti-AIDS funds to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. No one is forced to take the government’s pledge — unless they want the government’s money. David Bowker, representing George Soros’ Alliance for Open Society International, argues that Congress courts trouble when it decides whether to fund an organization based on its viewpoint.

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