MAY 15, 2006
Thankfully, United States law forbids the use of federal funds to promote or support prostitution or sex trafficking. Unfortunately, a district judge in New York has ruled that it is a violation of free speech to require recipients of federal funds to combat AIDS to abide by that law.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the government has funded nearly $6 billion for its international HIV/AIDS program, more than any other public or private organization. The money goes to various organizations in nearly 100 countries worldwide.
To qualify for the U.S. dollars, a group must adopt a statement saying it opposes two of the top behavioral risks associated with the deadly disease. To assure this happened, Congress passed a law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in 2003. This act bars the use of federal money to “promote, support or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking.”
Two organizations challenged the law in court and a New York judge named Victor Marrero issued a 120-page decision saying that the U.S. government violates free speech when it makes such provisions before handing out millions of dollars in public funds.
One of the plaintiffs was Pathfinder International, a group that says it strives to improve the health of women and the poor. The other plaintiff was the Open Society Institute, a foundation funded by billionaire liberal activist George Soros that claims to promote human rights and social reform. The Open Society Institute applauded the ruling saying that it allows effective HIV prevention methods with at-risk populations that have high percentages of sex workers.
Most Americans would probably be furious to know that their hard-earned tax money is helping a so-called sex worker combat a disease that is rampant in the trade. The Dragon and the Phoenix predicts that the ruling will be overturned because the government can attach conditions to the receipt of government funds. For this we are thankful.
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