The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a First Amendment dispute over whether the United States can force private health organizations
to denounce prostitution as a condition to get AIDS funding.
Justices said they will hear the government's appeal of a lower court ruling that found the anti-prostitution pledge, in a provision of federal law, violated the health groups' constitutional rights.
At issue is the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003. It requires groups seeking federal money to announce publicly that they oppose prostitution and sex-trafficking.
The government often attaches conditions to the receipt of federal funds, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the law went well beyond what is permissible.
Four organizations that work in Africa, Asia and South America filed a constitutional challenge to the law in 2005. A federal judge sided with the groups and a 2nd Circuit panel affirmed that ruling in a 2-1 vote. The majority said the rule doesn't
merely force organizations to refrain from certain conduct, but also requires them to espouse the government's viewpoint.
The case probably will be argued in April, with a decision due by the end of June.