Press Release

Attacks on Donor Privacy are Attacks on Free Expression

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The constitutional right for Americans to freely express our views is under attack from laws that require nonprofit organizations to subject their donors to public scrutiny. North Carolina lawmakers should proactively reject this intimidation tactic that invades donors’ privacy for political gain, according to a new report published by the John Locke Foundation.

In the report, “Protecting Donor Privacy in North Carolina,” author and attorney Jon Guze takes aim at the chilling effect of disclosure laws on all nonprofits, but particularly those that hold unpopular or minority views on public policy. “There is a long and disreputable history of using donor disclosure as a weapon against political and ideological opponents,” said Guze, the John Locke Foundation’s Director of Legal Studies. This includes job losses and death threats for private individuals, boycotts and protests for business owners, and doxing and online hate-storms for both groups.

The report’s release coincides with the Monday, June 8, virtual Shaftesbury Society discussion of the report and related issues. The event begins at noon and will be livestreamed on the John Locke Foundation’s Facebook page and at johnlocke.org.

Guze details court cases dealing with disclosure, including the key elements — and critical shortcomings — of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, NAACP v. Alabama. In 1958, Justice John M. Harlan II authored the unanimous ruling that found Alabama’s donor disclosure law violated the U.S. Constitution.

In his report, Guze encourages North Carolina policymakers to review and follow the actions of West Virginia and Mississippi. Both states have enacted donor privacy protection laws that forbid state agencies from making disclosure demands on nonprofit groups, except in cases of court orders. The report includes the actual language of each state’s law.

“The right to free expression is fundamental to our free society,” Guze said. “We must reject laws that make people afraid to exercise their expressive rights. Retaliation isn’t theoretical, and the impacts are real. It’s time for North Carolina to proactively stop this tactic in its tracks.”

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To interview Jon Guze, send an email to [email protected]
Or, call 919-828-3876 or 919-375-2021.

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About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.