Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
Annotate this Case
570 US ___ (2013)
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, et al., PETITIONERS v. ALLIANCE FOR OPEN SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit
[June 20, 2013]
Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.
The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (Leadership Act), 117Stat. 711, as amended, 22 U. S. C. §7601 et seq., outlined a comprehensive strategy to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS around the world. As part of that strategy, Congress authorized the appropriation of billions of dollars to fund efforts by nongovernmental organizations to assist in the fight. The Act imposes two related conditions on that funding: First, no funds made available by the Act “may be used to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking.” §7631(e). And second, no funds may be used by an organization “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” §7631(f). This case concerns the second of these conditions, referred to as the Policy Requirement. The question is whether that funding condition violates a recipient’s First Amendment rights.
Congress passed the Leadership Act in 2003 after finding that HIV/AIDS had “assumed pandemic proportions, spreading from the most severely affected regions, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, to all corners of the world, and leaving an unprecedented path of death and devastation.” 22 U. S. C. §7601(1). According to congressional findings, more than 65 million people had been infected by HIV and more than 25 million had lost their lives, making HIV/AIDS the fourth highest cause of death worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, AIDS had claimed the lives of more than 19 million individuals and was projected to kill a full quarter of the population of that area over the next decade. The disease not only directly endangered those infected, but also increased the potential for social and political instability and economic devastation, posing a security issue for the entire international community. §§7601(2)–(10).
In the Leadership Act, Congress directed the President to establish a “comprehensive, integrated” strategy to combat HIV/AIDS around the world. §7611(a). The Act sets out 29 different objectives the President’s strategy should seek to fulfill, reflecting a multitude of approaches to the problem. The strategy must include, among other things, plans to increase the availability of treatment for infected individuals, prevent new infections, support the care of those affected by the disease, promote training for physicians and other health care workers, and accelerate research on HIV/AIDS prevention methods, all while providing a framework for cooperation with international organizations and partner countries to further the goals of the program. §§7611(a)(1)–(29).
The Act “make[s] the reduction of HIV/AIDS behavioral risks a priority of all prevention efforts.” §7611(a)(12); see also §7601(15) (“Successful strategies to stem the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic will require . . . measures to address the social and behavioral causes of the problem”). The Act’s approach to reducing behavioral risks is multifaceted. The President’s strategy for addressing such risks must, for example, promote abstinence, encourage monogamy, increase the availability of condoms, promote voluntary counseling and treatment for drug users, and, as relevant here, “educat[e] men and boys about the risks of procuring sex commercially” as well as “promote alternative livelihoods, safety, and social reintegration strategies for commercial sex workers.” §7611(a)(12). Congress found that the “sex industry, the trafficking of individ- uals into such industry, and sexual violence” were factors in the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and deter- mined that “it should be the policy of the United States to eradicate” prostitution and “other sexual victimization.” §7601(23).
The United States has enlisted the assistance of nongovernmental organizations to help achieve the many goals of the program. Such organizations “with experience in health care and HIV/AIDS counseling,” Congress found, “have proven effective in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic and can be a resource in . . . provid[ing] treatment and care for individuals infected with HIV/AIDS.” §7601(18). Since 2003, Congress has authorized the appropriation of billions of dollars for funding these organizations’ fight against HIV/AIDS around the world. §2151b–2(c); §7671.
Those funds, however, come with two conditions: First, no funds made available to carry out the Leadership Act “may be used to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking.” §7631(e). Second, no funds made available may “provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, except . . . to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency.” §7631(f). It is this second condition—the Policy Requirement—that is at issue here.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are the federal agencies primarily responsible for overseeing implementation of the Leadership Act. To enforce the Policy Requirement, the agencies have directed that the recipient of any funding under the Act agree in the award document that it is opposed to “prostitution and sex trafficking because of the psychological and physical risks they pose for women, men, and children.” 45 CFR §89.1(b) (2012); USAID, Acquisition & Assistance Policy Directive 12–04, p. 6 (AAPD 12–04).
Respondents are a group of domestic organizations engaged in combating HIV/AIDS overseas. In addition to substantial private funding, they receive billions annually in financial assistance from the United States, including under the Leadership Act. Their work includes programs aimed at limiting injection drug use in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kenya, and promoting safer sex practices in India. Respondents fear that adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may alienate certain host governments, and may diminish the effectiveness of some of their programs by making it more difficult to work with prostitutes in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They are also concerned that the Policy Requirement may require them to censor their privately funded discussions in publications, at conferences, and in other forums about how best to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes.
In 2005, respondents Alliance for Open Society International and Pathfinder International commenced this litigation, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Government’s implementation of the Policy Requirement violated their First Amendment rights. Respondents sought a pre- liminary injunction barring the Government from cut- ting off their funding under the Act for the duration of the litigation, from unilaterally terminating their cooperative agreements with the United States, or from otherwise taking action solely on the basis of respondents’ own privately funded speech. The District Court granted such a preliminary injunction, and the Government appealed.
While the appeal was pending, HHS and USAID issued guidelines on how recipients of Leadership Act funds could retain funding while working with affiliated organizations not bound by the Policy Requirement. The guidelines per- mit funding recipients to work with affiliated organizations that “engage in activities inconsistent with the recipient’s opposition to the practices of prostitution and sex trafficking” as long as the recipients retain “objective integrity and independence from any affiliated organization.” 45 CFR §89.3; see also AAPD 12–04, at 6–7. Whether sufficient separation exists is determined by the totality of the circumstances, including “but not . . . limited to” (1) whether the organizations are legally separate; (2) whether they have separate personnel; (3) whether they keep separate accounting records; (4) the degree of separation in the organizations’ facilities; and (5) the extent to which signs and other forms of identification distinguish the organizations. 45 CFR §§89.3(b)(1)–(5); see also AAPD 12–04, at 6–7.
The Court of Appeals summarily remanded the case to the District Court to consider whether the preliminary injunction was still appropriate in light of the new guidelines. On remand, the District Court issued a new preliminary injunction along the same lines as the first, and the Government renewed its appeal.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that respondents had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their First Amendment challenge under this Court’s “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine. 651 F. 3d 218 (CA2 2011). Under this doctrine, the court reasoned, “the government may not place a condition on the receipt of a benefit or subsidy that infringes upon the recipient’s constitutionally protected rights, even if the government has no obligation to offer the benefit in the first instance.” Id., at 231 (citing Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U. S. 593, 597 (1972) ). And a condition that compels recipients “to espouse the government’s position” on a subject of international debate could not be squared with the First Amendment. 651 F. 3d, at 234. The court concluded that “the Policy Requirement, as implemented by the Agencies, falls well beyond what the Supreme Court . . . ha[s] upheld as permissible funding conditions.” Ibid.
Judge Straub dissented, expressing his view that the Policy Requirement was an “entirely rational exercise of Congress’s powers pursuant to the Spending Clause.” Id., at 240.
We granted certiorari. 568 U. S. ___ (2013).
The Policy Requirement mandates that recipients of Leadership Act funds explicitly agree with the Government’s policy to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. It is, however, a basic First Amendment principle that “freedom of speech prohibits the government from telling people what they must say.” Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U. S. 47, 61 (2006) (citing West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 642 (1943) , and Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 717 (1977) ). “At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence.” Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 622, 641 (1994) ; see Knox v. Service Employees, 567 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2012) (slip op., at 8–9) (“The government may not . . . compel the endorsement of ideas that it approves.”). Were it enacted as a direct regulation of speech, the Policy Requirement would plainly violate the First Amendment. The question is whether the Government may nonetheless impose that requirement as a condition on the receipt of federal funds.
The Spending Clause of the Federal Constitution grants Congress the power “[t]o lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. The Clause provides Congress broad discretion to tax and spend for the “general Welfare,” including by funding particular state or private programs or activities. That power includes the authority to impose limits on the use of such funds to ensure they are used in the manner Congress intends. Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173 , n. 4 (1991) (“Congress’ power to allocate funds for public purposes includes an ancillary power to ensure that those funds are properly applied to the prescribed use.”).
As a general matter, if a party objects to a condition on the receipt of federal funding, its recourse is to decline the funds. This remains true when the objection is that a condition may affect the recipient’s exercise of its First Amendment rights. See, e.g., United States v. American Library Assn., Inc., 539 U. S. 194, 212 (2003) (plurality opinion) (rejecting a claim by public libraries that conditioning funds for Internet access on the libraries’ installing filtering software violated their First Amendment rights, explaining that “[t]o the extent that libraries wish to offer unfiltered access, they are free to do so without federal assistance”); Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash., 461 U. S. 540, 546 (1983) (dismissing “the notion that First Amendment rights are somehow not fully realized unless they are subsidized by the State” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
At the same time, however, we have held that the Government “ ‘may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected . . . freedom of speech even if he has no entitlement to that benefit.’ ” Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, supra, at 59 (quoting American Library Assn., supra, at 210). In some cases, a funding condition can result in an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights. See Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, supra, at 59 (the First Amendment supplies “a limit on Congress’ ability to place conditions on the receipt of funds”).
The dissent thinks that can only be true when the condition is not relevant to the objectives of the program (al- though it has its doubts about that), or when the condition is actually coercive, in the sense of an offer that cannot be refused. See post, at 2–3 (opinion of Scalia, J.). Our precedents, however, are not so limited. In the present context, the relevant distinction that has emerged from our cases is between conditions that define the limits of the government spending program—those that specify the activities Congress wants to subsidize—and conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the program itself. The line is hardly clear, in part because the definition of a particular program can always be manipulated to subsume the challenged condition. We have held, however, that “Congress cannot recast a condition on funding as a mere definition of its program in every case, lest the First Amendment be reduced to a simple semantic exercise.” Legal Services Corporation v. Velazquez, 531 U. S. 533, 547 (2001) .
A comparison of two cases helps illustrate the distinction: In Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington, the Court upheld a requirement that nonprofit organizations seeking tax-exempt status under 26 U. S. C. §501(c)(3) not engage in substantial efforts to influence legislation. The tax-exempt status, we explained, “ha[d] much the same effect as a cash grant to the organization.” 461 U. S., at 544. And by limiting §501(c)(3) status to organizations that did not attempt to influence legislation, Congress had merely “chose[n] not to subsidize lobbying.” Ibid. In rejecting the nonprofit’s First Amendment claim, the Court highlighted—in the text of its opinion, but see post, at 5—the fact that the condition did not prohibit that organization from lobbying Congress altogether. By returning to a “dual structure” it had used in the past—separately incorporating as a §501(c)(3) organization and §501(c)(4) organization—the nonprofit could continue to claim §501(c)(3) status for its nonlobbying activities, while attempting to influence legislation in its §501(c)(4) capac- ity with separate funds. Ibid. Maintaining such a structure, the Court noted, was not “unduly burdensome.” Id., at 545, n. 6. The condition thus did not deny the organization a government benefit “on account of its intention to lobby.” Id., at 545.
In FCC v. League of Women Voters of California, by contrast, the Court struck down a condition on federal financial assistance to noncommercial broadcast television and radio stations that prohibited all editorializing, including with private funds. 468 U. S. 364 –401 (1984). Even a station receiving only one percent of its overall budget from the Federal Government, the Court explained, was “barred absolutely from all editorializing.” Id., at 400. Unlike the situation in Regan, the law provided no way for a station to limit its use of federal funds to noneditorializing activities, while using private funds “to make known its views on matters of public importance.” 468 U. S., at 400. The prohibition thus went beyond ensuring that federal funds not be used to subsidize “public broadcasting station editorials,” and instead leveraged the federal funding to regulate the stations’ speech outside the scope of the program. Id., at 399 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Our decision in Rust v. Sullivan elaborated on the approach reflected in Regan and League of Women Voters. In Rust, we considered Title X of the Public Health Service Act, a Spending Clause program that issued grants to nonprofit health-care organizations “to assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family planning projects [to] offer a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services.” 500 U. S., at 178 (internal quotation marks omitted). The organizations received funds from a variety of sources other than the Federal Government for a variety of purposes. The Act, however, prohibited the Title X federal funds from being “used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). To enforce this provision, HHS regulations barred Title X projects from advocating abortion as a method of family planning, and required grantees to ensure that their Title X projects were “ ‘physically and financially separate’ ” from their other projects that engaged in the prohibited activities. Id., at 180–181 (quoting 42 CFR §59.9 (1989)). A group of Title X funding recipients brought suit, claiming the regulations imposed an unconstitutional condition on their First Amendment rights. We rejected their claim.
We explained that Congress can, without offending the Constitution, selectively fund certain programs to address an issue of public concern, without funding alterna- tive ways of addressing the same problem. In Title X, Congress had defined the federal program to encourage only particular family planning methods. The challenged regulations were simply “designed to ensure that the limits of the federal program are observed,” and “that public funds [are] spent for the purposes for which they were authorized.” Rust, 500 U. S., at 193, 196.
In making this determination, the Court stressed that “Title X expressly distinguishes between a Title X grantee and a Title X project.” Id., at 196. The regulations governed only the scope of the grantee’s Title X projects, leaving it “unfettered in its other activities.” Ibid. “The Title X grantee can continue to . . . engage in abortion advocacy; it simply is required to conduct those activities through programs that are separate and independent from the project that receives Title X funds.” Ibid. Because the regulations did not “prohibit[ ] the recipient from engaging in the protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program,” they did not run afoul of the First Amendment. Id., at 197.
As noted, the distinction drawn in these cases—between conditions that define the federal program and those that reach outside it—is not always self-evident. As Justice Cardozo put it in a related context, “Definition more precise must abide the wisdom of the future.” Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U. S. 548, 591 (1937) . Here, however, we are confident that the Policy Requirement falls on the unconstitutional side of the line.
To begin, it is important to recall that the Leader- ship Act has two conditions relevant here. The first—unchallenged in this litigation—prohibits Leadership Act funds from being used “to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking.” 22 U. S. C. §7631(e). The Government concedes that §7631(e) by itself ensures that federal funds will not be used for the prohibited purposes. Brief for Petitioners 26–27.
The Policy Requirement therefore must be doing something more—and it is. The dissent views the Requirement as simply a selection criterion by which the Government identifies organizations “who believe in its ideas to carry them to fruition.” Post, at 1. As an initial matter, whatever purpose the Policy Requirement serves in selecting funding recipients, its effects go beyond selection. The Policy Requirement is an ongoing condition on recipients’ speech and activities, a ground for terminating a grant after selection is complete. See AAPD 12–04, at 12. In any event, as the Government acknowledges, it is not simply seeking organizations that oppose prostitution. Reply Brief 5. Rather, it explains, “Congress has expressed its purpose ‘to eradicate’ prostitution and sex trafficking, 22 U. S. C. §7601(23), and it wants recipients to adopt a similar stance.” Brief for Petitioners 32 (emphasis added). This case is not about the Government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees. It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.
By demanding that funding recipients adopt—as their own—the Government’s view on an issue of public concern, the condition by its very nature affects “protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program.” Rust, 500 U. S., at 197. A recipient cannot avow the belief dictated by the Policy Requirement when spending Leadership Act funds, and then turn around and assert a contrary belief, or claim neutrality, when participating in activities on its own time and dime. By requiring recipients to profess a specific belief, the Policy Requirement goes beyond defining the limits of the federally funded program to defining the recipient. See ibid. (“our ‘unconstitutional conditions’ cases involve situations in which the Government has placed a condition on the recipient of the subsidy rather than on a particular program or service, thus effectively prohibiting the recipient from engaging in the protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program”).
The Government contends that the affiliate guidelines, established while this litigation was pending, save the program. Under those guidelines, funding recipients are permitted to work with affiliated organizations that do not abide by the condition, as long as the recipients retain “objective integrity and independence” from the unfettered affiliates. 45 CFR §89.3. The Government suggests the guidelines alleviate any unconstitutional burden on the respondents’ First Amendment rights by allowing them to either: (1) accept Leadership Act funding and comply with Policy Requirement, but establish affiliates to communicate contrary views on prostitution; or (2) decline funding themselves (thus remaining free to express their own views or remain neutral), while creating affiliates whose sole purpose is to receive and administer Leadership Act funds, thereby “cabin[ing] the effects” of the Policy Requirement within the scope of the federal program. Brief for Petitioners 38–39, 44–49.
Neither approach is sufficient. When we have noted the importance of affiliates in this context, it has been because they allow an organization bound by a funding condition to exercise its First Amendment rights outside the scope of the federal program. See Rust, supra, at 197–198. Affiliates cannot serve that purpose when the condition is that a funding recipient espouse a specific belief as its own. If the affiliate is distinct from the recipient, the arrangement does not afford a means for the recipient to express its beliefs. If the affiliate is more clearly identified with the recipient, the recipient can express those beliefs only at the price of evident hypocrisy. The guidelines themselves make that clear. See 45 CFR §89.3 (allowing funding recipients to work with affiliates whose conduct is “inconsistent with the recipient’s opposition to the practices of prostitution and sex trafficking” (emphasis added)).
The Government suggests that the Policy Requirement is necessary because, without it, the grant of federal funds could free a recipient’s private funds “to be used to promote prostitution or sex trafficking.” Brief for Petitioners 27 (citing Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1 , ___–___ (2010) (slip op., at 25–26)). That argument assumes that federal funding will simply supplant private funding, rather than pay for new programs or expand existing ones. The Government offers no support for that assumption as a general matter, or any reason to believe it is true here. And if the Government’s argument were correct, League of Women Voters would have come out differently, and much of the reasoning of Regan and Rust would have been beside the point.
The Government cites but one case to support that argument, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. That case concerned the quite different context of a ban on providing material support to terrorist organizations, where the record indicated that support for those organizations’ nonviolent operations was funneled to support their violent activities. 561 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 26).
Pressing its argument further, the Government contends that “if organizations awarded federal funds to implement Leadership Act programs could at the same time promote or affirmatively condone prostitution or sex trafficking, whether using public or private funds, it would undermine the government’s program and confuse its message opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” Brief for Petitioners 37 (emphasis added). But the Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution. As to that, we cannot improve upon what Justice Jackson wrote for the Court 70 years ago: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” Barnette, 319 U. S., at 642.
* * *
The Policy Requirement compels as a condition of fed- eral funding the affirmation of a belief that by its nature cannot be confined within the scope of the Government program. In so doing, it violates the First Amendment and cannot be sustained. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Kagan, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.