ACLU to Advocate for NRA in Free Speech Case at the Supreme Court

The ACLU is set to stand for the National Rifle Association (NRA) in a First Amendment case at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The unexpected collaboration between the NRA and the left-leaning ACLU is gearing up for a legal showdown over free speech rights. The NRA’s 2018 lawsuit against Maria Vullo, former head of the New York Department of Financial Services, alleges a First Amendment violation for pressuring financial institutions to sever ties with the gun rights group.

The Supreme Court, accepting the case in November, will now be the arena for this legal battle, with the ACLU notably announcing their representation of the NRA in this matter.

“We’re representing the NRA at the Supreme Court in their case against New York’s Department of Financial Services for abusing its regulatory power to violate the NRA’s First Amendment rights. The government can’t blacklist an advocacy group because of its viewpoint,” the ACLU stated in a post on X.

NRA President Charles Cotton conveyed appreciation for the ACLU’s engagement, underscoring the significance of thwarting the regulatory power’s potential to suppress political expression.

“The NRA is proud to stand with the ACLU and others who recognize this important truth: regulatory authority cannot be used to silence political speech,” he said in a post on X.

The initial legal action against Ms. Vullo and the DFS alleged the use of tactics like selective prosecution and influencing financial entities to sever connections with the NRA. Supposedly, institutions were cautioned about “reputational risk” if they maintained ties with the NRA and were offered incentives to dissociate from the gun rights organization.

While Ms. Vullo and the DFS contend they provided guidance rather than mandating the termination of NRA associations, the NRA asserts significant damages, pursuing compensation in the millions.

In 2021, a federal judge dismissed most claims against Ms. Vullo but retained several free speech claims. However, in 2022, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that even these First Amendment claims should have been dismissed, prompting the NRA’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Despite ideological variances, the ACLU clarified that, while they do not endorse the NRA’s position on gun rights, they stand against any governmental effort to curb free speech. Emphasizing the peril of permitting state regulatory bodies to blacklist organizations based on their viewpoints, they made their opposition clear.

“While we vigorously oppose the NRA’s viewpoint, we cannot give government officials the power to silence those with whom they disagree,” the ACLU said, adding that, if the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, “it will create a dangerous playbook for state regulatory agencies across the country to blacklist or punish any viewpoint-based organizations.”

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), criticized the actions of New York officials, characterizing them as indicative of a larger pattern of employing financial pressure to suppress dissenting voices.

“There’s significant pressure on banks to de-bank people that the political left, especially, do not agree with,” Mr. Tedesco said. “And this has been happening for years.”