NPR logo Court Upholds Law That Prohibits 'Material Support' To Terrorist Groups


Court Upholds Law That Prohibits 'Material Support' To Terrorist Groups

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a federal statute that makes it a crime to "knowingly provid[e] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization," 6-3, in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

(You can read the court's opinion here.)

"The material support law bars people from providing training and advice to groups with ties to terrorists," NPR's Carrie Johnson explains. "Human rights groups argued that the law was too vague, and that it intruded on their First Amendment rights of speech and association."

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts highlighted the government's need to protect national security.

In his dissent, which he read from the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer said that "the Government has not made the strong showing necessary to justify under the First Amendment the criminal prosecution of those who engage in these activities."

All the activities involve the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends. Even the subjects the plaintiffs wish to teach — using international law to resolve disputes peace-fully or petitioning the United Nations, for instance — concern political speech.