George Soros, founder of the Alliance for Open Society, wants to help prostitutes and other sex workers. The thing he won't accept is a government gag order when it comes to free speech and conscience rights. And he shouldn't.
This is what is at stake in USAID v. Alliance for Open Society, which is slated for oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22. The case is complicated, but concerned Christians and religious groups should take note of—and support—Soros' counterintuitive position, even if they disagree with his stance on prostitution. The ramifications for faith-based organizations whose views diverge from the current popular consensus are huge.
The messy case involves the Leadership Act of 2003, which provides funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the federal government's massive, George W. Bush-initiated commitment to fight HIV/AIDS. The Act takes a comprehensive approach, seeking to reduce risky sexual behavior. Accordingly, Congress required organizations seeking funding for HIV prevention services overseas to have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking."
Organizations like Soros's Alliance for Open Society long have regarded the requirement to be counterproductive, making it more difficult for them to reach prostitutes, who are both particularly vulnerable and disproportionately likely to spread the disease. They argued that the government overreached by requiring them to affirm a particular commitment (rather than just be silent) and for that commitment to be required for the entire organization and not just for the program of services funded by the government.
"Requiring health workers to condemn ...