The National Rifle Association (NRA) has found an unlikely ally in of the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which will represent the gun rights advocacy group at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that centers of the constitutional right of free speech.
The NRA in 2018 brought a lawsuit against Maria Vullo, former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), alleging that she violated the First Amendment by pressuring regulated financial institutions like banks and insurers to stop doing business with the gun rights group.
The case made its way through the courts, eventually landing before the Supreme Court, which in November agreed to take it up.
“We’re representing the NRA at the Supreme Court in their case against New York’s Department of Financial Services for abusing its regulatory power to violate the NRA’s First Amendment rights. The government can’t blacklist an advocacy group because of its viewpoint,” the ACLU said in a post on X.
NRA President Charles Cotton welcomed the ACLU’s announcement.
“The NRA is proud to stand with the ACLU and others who recognize this important truth: regulatory authority cannot be used to silence political speech,” he said in a post on X.
The gun rights group’s original lawsuit accused Ms. Vullo and the DFS of having engaged in a “campaign of selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats” to the detriment of the NRA and the Americans it represents.
The lawsuit accuses Ms. Vullo of having warned regulated institutions that doing business with the NRA exposed them to “reputational risk,” while also allegedly secretly offering leniency to insurers for unrelated infractions if they dropped the gun rights lobby as their client.
Citing private telephone calls, internal insurer documents, and statements by an anonymous banking executive, the complaint alleged that a number of regulated financial institutions saw Ms. Vullo’s actions as “threatening” and either stopped their existing business arrangements with the NRA or refused new ones.
The complaint claims that the defendants’ actions resulted in significant damages to the NRA, with the group seeking millions of dollars in damages.
Ms. Vullo and the DFS have argued that they merely issued advice and did not force businesses to cut ties with the NRA.
In 2021, a federal judge dismissed all claims apart from multiple free speech claims against Ms. Vullo.
Later, in 2022, the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment cases also should have been dismissed, prompting the NRA’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its Dec. 9 announcement that it will be representing the NRA before the Supreme Court, the ACLU said that it doesn’t support the NRA’s mission, nor its views on gun rights, nor does it back the group’s tactics. However, it made clear it opposes government suppression of free speech.
“While we vigorously oppose the NRA’s viewpoint, we cannot give government officials the power to silence those with whom they disagree,” the ACLU said, adding that, if the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, “it will create a dangerous playbook for state regulatory agencies across the country to blacklist or punish any viewpoint-based organizations.”
Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview that the actions of New York officials with respect to the NRA are the latest in a long line of attempts by the government to control speech by pressuring financial institutions to cut off services to disfavored organizations.
“There’s significant pressure on banks to de-bank people that the political left, especially, do not agree with,” Mr. Tedesco told The Epoch Times. “And this has been happening for years.”
Kevin Stocklin contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times