Across the country, including unfortunately here in Iowa, there are activists who think it is better to target people with whom they disagree through harassment and intimidation – “canceling” their viewpoints and excluding them from public policy discussions – instead of engaging in healthy debate about issues. On Tuesday night, the Iowa House took a step to address this issue through the passage of HF 309, which protects the privacy of donors to nonprofit organizations from disclosure.
This issue originated in the 1950s, during the peak of the civil rights movement. The State of Alabama attempted to force the disclosure of people who supported the organizations that were leading this fight. Specifically, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was told that it would need to report the names and addresses of its supporters to the state. If this would have been allowed to happen, it could have been devastating for the civil rights movement – undoubtedly, their donors would have been targeted for their support of the organization. Livelihoods would have been destroyed and lives would have been threatened. Fortunately, a Supreme Court ruling protected people’s safety by determining that their support could remain private.
Today, Americans are still feeling pressure for supporting causes that aren’t popular, particularly conservative causes. The consequences may be different, but countless people have experienced harassment on social media and some have been fired from their jobs, simply because they were targeted for their personal beliefs. Equally problematic is that some Americans are choosing to stay quiet instead of speaking out about issues important to them. This kind of cancel culture cannot become the new standard for public discourse in our state or country.
Iowans have a long history of supporting important community causes. This includes organizations that represent their beliefs and engage in policy debates on behalf of their supporters. Protecting the ability of all Iowans to privately support nonprofit organizations is critical. Aggressive activists cannot be allowed to target this American institution. Cancel culture cannot become the new norm in Iowa.
Fortunately, HF 309 addresses this issue. If signed into law, Iowans – and the nonprofits that they support – will be protected. Whether you choose to donate money to your local church or an organization that is advocating for a cause you care about, your privacy will be protected from those who want to target you for your beliefs.
HF 309 now moves to the Iowa Senate for their consideration.