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California Is Demanding Information from Nonprofits That Could Endanger Donors

By Caroline Roberts posted on:
February 22, 2021

When you donate to a nonprofit organization that aligns with your convictions, you trust that your information won’t be leaked to the public. You also trust that the organization you’ve given to won’t be forced by the government to turn over your name and address.

Donor privacy is a constitutional right that protects the wellbeing of people across the country.

But the California Attorney General’s office is requiring all nonprofits that fundraise in California to hand over the names and addresses of their major donors every year—a demand that is dangerous, useless, and uncalled-for... not to mention unconstitutional.

Why? Because every person in the United States is free to support the causes they believe in without fearing privacy violations or harassment. Your right to free association is protected by the Constitution.

Today’s politics have sown strong animosity and division in this country. And if nonprofits are forced to disclose their supporters’ names and addresses, many of those supporters would likely face harassment and threats from people who disapprove of their values.

For example, employees, clients, and supporters of Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a legal nonprofit in Michigan, have received hate mail, death threats, and harassment from ideological opponents. TMLC promotes faith and family values and protects the sanctity of human life.

That’s why California’s ultimatum—turn over donor information to the AG’s office or end all fundraising in California—is concerning to them.

So TMLC is standing up to the state, and Alliance Defending Freedom is representing this organization before the U.S. Supreme Court this spring. Today, ADF filed its opening brief at the Court. Learn more about the case:

California’s Attorney General’s office has proven to be unreliable with sensitive information.

In fact, after California demanded that hundreds of nonprofits hand over their major donor information, the state leaked that information—including names and addresses—online to the public. For a period of time, anyone with web browser could find this confidential information.

And this isn’t only a risk for nonprofits like TMLC. It would be a risk to any nonprofit with donors in California, including organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Every American should be free to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation,” said ADF Senior Counsel John Bursch. “Given that the California Attorney General’s office hardly ever uses supporter information for any purpose, there’s simply no justification for forcing charities to disclose their supporters’ names and addresses and making freedom of association a pipe dream.”

ADF is standing with 60 other organizations to ask the Supreme Court for justice and to stop California from violating the constitutional rights of nonprofits and their supporters.

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Caroline Roberts, Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts

Strategic Communications Writer

Caroline Roberts serves as a Strategic Communications Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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