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Supreme Court of the United States

Why Legislation Protecting Donor Privacy is Not “Unnecessary”

By Natalie Allen posted on:
September 16, 2021

Earlier this month, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed SB 636 , “An Act to Protect the Privacy of Charitable Donors.”

This bill would have protected the private information of individuals who peacefully support charities and other nonprofit organizations of their choice.

As an explanation for his veto, Gov. Cooper issued this short statement: “This legislation is unnecessary and may limit transparency with political contributions."

Setting aside the fact that North Carolina’s citizens and legislators deserve a more detailed justification about why a bill that had so much legislative support was vetoed, simply put, Gov. Cooper is wrong.

This legislation is necessary.

Unfortunately, in our current toxic social climate, expressing your views can be dangerous. In an age of doxing and cancel culture, supporters of particular organizations and viewpoints often face harassment or intimidation. It makes sense that some donors prefer to keep private the names of the churches, charities, and causes to which they donate.

Thankfully, earlier this year the Supreme Court issued a ruling making it clear that it is unconstitutional to force nonprofits to reveal their donors’ private information needlessly en mass.

In Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta , the Supreme Court struck down California’s blanket donor-disclosure policy, thereby helping to protect every American’s right to peacefully support causes they believe in without fear or threats.

This case was a result of a policy instituted by the California Attorney General’s Office demanding that all nonprofits who fundraise in the state provide all their major supporters’ information every year. The new policy was particularly troubling in light of California’s less-than-stellar reputation for actually keeping private information private.

This worried Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), and for good reason. TMLC supporters, employees, and clients have faced intimidation, death threats, hate mail, boycotts, and even an assassination plot from ideological opponents. If California were to leak the private information of nonprofit donors—either accidentally or on purpose—TMLC supporters would be in very real danger.

These concerns highlighted the fundamental problem with California’s policy: if your name and address could be exposed to those looking to harass and cancel, you would think twice about donating to charity. And if you have to think twice about it, are you truly free to associate with and support the organizations of your choice?

In TMLC’s case, the Supreme Court agreed: Everyone deserves a voice, not merely those able to weather abuse.

But the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to be done to protect the right to financial privacy. Fortunately, several state legislatures have already taken proactive steps to build on this important precedent by protecting private giving in their states. In fact, ten states now have laws on the books that ensure their citizens are free to peacefully support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation. While we are disappointed by Gov. Cooper’s veto of SB 636, we are grateful that other states are working to safeguard the ability for people to give freely and privately.

Whether in the courtroom or the legislature, ADF will continue to fight to ensure individuals remain free to support nonprofit organizations and their causes without fear of harassment or threats.


Natalie Allen

Natalie Allen

Legislative Communications & Initiatives Coordinator

Natalie worked as a lobbyist at the Family Foundation of Virginia and a grassroots associate at Heritage Action for America before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.


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