Compelled disclosure of donor information of private non-profit entities is not a new concept. Advocates on both sides of the issue have pushed for new laws and rule changes in state and federal government. Unfortunately, the cancel culture trend has grown so out of control that there is a real fear of retaliation for supporting private causes.
While attacks of privacy rights take different forms across the country, in Missouri the typical avenue is through our state’s campaign finance laws. Missouri’s most liberal legislators file legislation on an annual basis in an attempt to force private non-profit organizations to disclose the personal information of their donors. Such legislation threatens to undermine the Constitutional protection of the First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, and association from government restriction.
The national effort to destroy personal privacy, the “For the People Act,” is opposed by groups and advocates who recognize the chilling effect it would have on contributions to worthy causes. Notably the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the overbroad donor disclosure requirements of the federal bill, stating in a letter to Congress it “would unconstitutionally chill the speech of issue advocacy groups and non-profits such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or the NRA that is essential to our public discourse and protected by the First Amendment” and “would too greatly impinge upon the freedoms of speech and association.”
We cannot allow cancel culture to gain a foothold in Missouri. Without protection, we can look forward to an even more combative climate where donations to support organizations like Missouri Right to Life, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and even homeowners’ associations will be known to our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers and used against us in any number of ways by those seeking to intimidate us from supporting those organizations in the future or to cancel a person for their previous support.
Fortunately for Missourians, courageous leaders in the Missouri legislature, Sen. Andrew Koenig and Rep. Jered Taylor, proactively filed legislation to protect the rights of private individuals. The Personal Privacy Protection Act would bar any public entity from disclosing personal information, not including that already required by law, which would identify someone as a member or donor of a non-profit organization.
Six states have already passed their own versions of the Personal Privacy Protection Act and another seven, including Missouri, have introduced it in their current sessions. Cancelling out your opponents or organizations you do not support is not who we are as Americans. Our country was founded on freedom and liberty, yet a growing chorus of Americans hopes to cancel out views they do not agree with and those who support those views.
Missouri must take a stand and fight back against cancel culture. There are vile forces seeking to stamp out your views. Non-profit organizations serve an important role in helping individuals voice their opinions and encourage the exchange of free speech and ideas in our society. Rather than working to silence our opponents’ views, we need to work to protect free speech and association. Our state will be better for it.
Gregg Keller is the chairman of the Missouri Century Foundation.