Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters damaged many homes in the Texas city of Dickinson, and residents are applying for assistance and working to repair their properties.But Dickinson's application for repair grants is raising eyebrows. Alongside standard items such as project descriptions and grant amounts, the city application reads:
"By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement."
In doing so, the application appears to make eligibility for hurricane relief funds contingent on political beliefs regarding Israel, which the American Civil Liberties Union describes as unconstitutional.
"The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression," ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement.
A city official told NPR that Dickinson is simply following a recently passed state law: "The city has nothing to do with it." They are referring to House Bill 89, which came into force on September 1. But Rep. Phil King, who authored the legislation, told NPR he was baffled about why it was being applied here.
"We're eating this morning, having my oatmeal, and I see the article in the paper. And it's like, 'Oh no, what could they possibly be thinking?'" King said.