ACLU to Represent NRA in Supreme Court Case on Free Speech

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has found an unlikely ally in of the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which will represent the gun rights advocacy group at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that centers of the constitutional right of free speech. The case involves the NRA’s 2018 lawsuit against Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), alleging that she violated the First Amendment by pressuring regulated financial institutions to stop doing business with the gun rights group.

The case made its way through the courts, eventually landing before the Supreme Court, which in November agreed to take it up. The ACLU said in a statement that it will be 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.

NRA President Charles Cotton welcomed the ACLU’s announcement. He said, “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.”

The gun rights group’s original lawsuit accuses Ms. Vullo and the DFS of having engaged “in a campaign of selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats” to the detriment of the NRA and the Americans it represents. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Vullo warned regulated institutions that doing business with the NRA exposed them to “reputational risk” and offered leniency to insurers if they dropped the gun rights lobby as their client, resulting in significant damages to the NRA.

Ms. Vullo and the DFS have argued that they merely issued advice and did not force businesses to cut ties with the NRA. In 2021, a federal judge dismissed all claims apart from multiple free speech claims against Ms. Vullo. Later, in 2022, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment cases should have been dismissed, prompting the NRA’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU doesn’t support the NRA’s mission, nor its views on gun rights, nor does it back the group’s tactics. However, it made clear it opposes government suppression of free speech. In its announcement that it will be representing the NRA before the Supreme Court, the ACLU said 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 for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told The Epoch Times that the actions of New York officials with respect to the NRA are the latest in a long line of attempts by the government to control speech by pressuring financial institutions to cut off services to disfavored organizations. “There’s significant pressure on banks to de-bank people that the political left, especially, do not agree with.”


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