A Christian legal center appealed to the Supreme Court Monday, challenging California’s law that forces nonprofits to disclose donors to the state attorney general’s office.
The Thomas More Law Center said California’s attorney general has shown an inability to protect the information from disclosure, so forcing nonprofits to turn the information over trashes the groups’ constitutional rights.
“Only the most stalwart supporters will give money under such a toxic cloud,” the group argued. “Most will reasonably conclude that the risk of association is too great.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s rules, saying the nonprofits already had to report the same information to the IRS, so reporting it to state was acceptable. Besides, the appeals court said, the risk of disclosure by the state was small.
Thomas More disputed that, pointing to negligent disclosure of nearly 2,000 IRS forms, including one with the names of Planned Parenthood supporters. The state attorney general’s office “leaks confidential records like a sieve,” the group argued.
Disclosure can lead to harassment, which could stifle groups’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights, Thomas More argued.
“Public advocacy is for everyone, not merely those able to weather abuse,” said John Bursch, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious-liberty firm handling the case for Thomas More.