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States, Nonprofits File Amicus Briefs in California Donor Disclosure Case

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Twenty-two states and multiple advocacy groups have submitted more than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that seeks to overturn a California requirement that nonprofits annually disclose the names of their major donors. 

The high court agreed to hear the case Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra after the 9th Circuit ruled that the Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit that defends and promotes religious freedom, moral and family values and the sanctity of human life, must divulge its list.

Thomas More Law Center’s case was consolidated by the 9th Circuit with a similar lawsuit filed by Americans for Prosperity Foundation that the U.S. Supreme Court also has agreed to hear. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Center in the case, said the California Attorney General’s Office, led by Xavier Becerra, rarely uses the information for any purpose and that “simply no justification exists for forcing charities to put themselves and their supporters at risk through forced disclosure of donor names and addresses,” information it says could easily be hacked if stored on the internet. 

The brief filed by the states says, in part: “Our collective experience is uniform and unequivocal: we don’t need this sort of compelled collection of donor information for legitimate law enforcement purposes, and its stockpiling is unlikely to lead to any outcome other than mischief and chilling of speech. We therefore do not seek to collect it.”

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Others filing supporting briefs include the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and nonprofit group ChinaAid.

“Mandatory disclosure of sensitive information is especially dangerous for donors and employees of nonprofits like Thomas More Law Center, who have faced intimidation, death threats, hate mail, boycotts, and even assassination plots from people who don’t agree with them,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. 

Bursch goes on to say, “Every American should be free to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights and the sanctity of life.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.