Can controversial nonprofits expect government protection from mandatory disclosures of their donor participants? New Jersey is the latest state to respond “No,” at least when Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations engage in lobbying or other politically related activity. Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a Section 501(c)(4) organization has asserted “Yes,” challenging this so-called “dark money” reporting and donor disclosure law as a First Amendment violation. AFP’s challenge follows on the heels of its valiant (but thus far defeated) effort against California’s more narrow donor disclosure law. Balancing our nation’s constitutional history regarding freedom of speech, association and expression rights, and related privacy interests against New Jersey’s onerous donor disclosure requirements, AFP should win the day with its newly filed injunction action.
Amid continuing revelations of child sexual abuse committed by clergy members, some states are rejecting such exception and requiring clergy to report information received through personal confessions – or possibly face criminal fines and jail. With pertaining bills passing in the Illinois House of Representatives and California Senate, this trend reflects sharp tensions between important interests: government deference to religious liberty freedoms and government interests in protecting vulnerable persons from harm.