Do AIDS advocacy groups receiving federal $ have a responsibility to behave politely?

Per this story AIDS protest fuels audit request

Parts of article.

Does HHS have a right to put these groups on notice or yank funding for personally and publically humilating the HHS Secy?

Hmm, sort of a “you’ll be polite to me, young man, or I’ll cut your allowance” approach?

I’d say “no”, since Tommy Thompson isn’t their dad.

And what other groups get funding, and would they have to be polite, too? Decatur got a $50 million HUD grant to knock down low-income housing and build more, so if they don’t like the way HUD is running things, and they wanna complain, they have to be polite or risk losing the grant?

Hmm… It still doesn’t work for me, but I’m not sure why. Maybe because in a Free Society we all have the right to speak our minds, and it isn’t always gonna be pretty. Or polite.

I’m trying to visualize a veddy British-type oh-so-civilized debate instead of the protest that actually happened, and it just ain’t coming, sorry.

Tommy should be thankful they didn’t actually throw things. And seems to me like the risk of occasional public humiliation is something that goes with the territory of “holding public office”. What’s next–lawsuits to recover damages for “pain and suffering” incurred because you weren’t re-elected?

So, Duck, the groups getting funded have the right to disrupt other people from presenting their agenda, and the taxpayer is obligated to subsidize it? I thought you said we all had the right to speak our minds.

Or Tommy Thompson has no First Amendment rights because he disagrees with ACT-UP, or whoever it is?

Or does having AIDS give you the right to silence anyone you don’t like?

I would yank their funding in a New York minute. If they don’t like it, maybe they can behave in a civilized manner instead of pitching a tantrum in public, and expecting to get paid for it.


Not at a privately organized and conducted conference in Barcelona, Spain, he doesn’t.

I also liked this bit:

Sorry, but this sounds to me like exactly the kind of thing that the First Amendment was designed to prevent – attempting to control an organization’s political speech by playing with the purse strings. Fund them or don’t fund them, for legitimate reasons, but don’t tell them that if they don’t say what you want, or if they don’t refrain from saying things the government doesn’t like, you’ll take it away.

So the organizers and other attendees of the conference, who wanted to hear what Thompson had to say, don’t have any redress when these people overrule this decision by disrupting his speech, and preventing any point of view from being heard but their own.

This is how my tax money should be spent? I beg to differ.

So the Constitution should read;

No one is preventing these people from saying anything. It’s the other way around. They are preventing anyone else from speaking with whom they differ. And for the same reason that a dog will lick his balls, or rich people sometimes behave like jerks. Because they can get away with it.


It’s the God-given right of every dog to lick his own balls!

tracer -

Or anyone else’s, for all I care - just not on my dime. I have better uses for it.



Due to some strange server snafu, my post was accepted, but the thread wasn’t bumped up. (Mods please note.) So, I’m bumping it.

Presumably, the organizers could have had the protestors removed from the venue, or rescheduled Thompson’s speech and barred those persons from attending. Why they did not is anyone’s guess. In any case, that’s an entirely different matter than your question about Thompson’s First Amendment rights. The First Amendment is entirely neutral concerning private goings-on in Barcelona.

Thompson wasn’t so upset that he didn’t meet with those same people later, according to the linked article. Sorry, but this questioning of “reviewing” these groups’ funding, combined with the esteemed Congressmens’ concern over whether religious groups were excluded, smacks of McCarthyism to me.

Perhaps I was working under the misunderstanding that these groups are receiving funding to conduct AIDS advocacy work, not “acting in a civilized manner.” If the Treatment Action Group is in fact a good manners think tank, I will withdraw my objection that this is a bald and cynical attempt to cut funding to projects that this administration has deprioritized.

Protesting HHS’ relatively appalling record on international AIDS advocacy is something I would gladly subsidize with my dime. Certainly more than, say, “faith-based” initiatives.

Chacun a son gout.

The problem being that these were not “private goings-on” if they are happening at least partly at public expense.

Sure the organizers could have taken other steps to prevent some bunch of jerks from disrupting the conference. How is that different from cutting off their funding, and seeing if that will get them to behave? The whole question under discussion is whether it makes sense to subsidize groups that do not recognize anyone else rights - or not.

Which is very much to his credit. He treated them far better than they treated him. Who do you think looks like the class act here - the hysterical soap-opera wannabes, or the elected official willing to overlook a public tantrum in the interest of the public health?

McCarthyism was asking “Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?” and jailing those who refused to answer. This is asking “Why should I subsidize your hissy fits?”, and asking those who try to scream everyone else off the stage to either shut up, or do it at their own expense.

Do you really think it is necessary to act like a jerk to conduct AIDS advocacy? I don’t see why the two are necessarily opposed.

Martin Luther King did his advocacy with peaceful protest. Gandhi did as well. Why is the gay lobby the only one who feels called upon to have a screaming fit when confronted with someone with whose position they disagree?

Isn’t it a good thing that you feel you have a choice. If the AIDS protestors get their way, no one will be allowed to advocate anything except what they want. And you will get sent the bill every time they have a case of the vapors.

No, they can shut up and wait their turn to speak just like we all learned on the playground. If those rules are too much for them to abide by, let them raise their own funds.


From the cite in the OP

I’m sorry that the government support covers advocacy as well as service. I’m happy to pay taxes to help people with AIDS. However, I don’t even know what the advocates are advocating. I also don’t know what fraction of their money goes to health care and what fraction goes to advocacy. I would rather not support that aspect.

No. I mean, I don’t mean to be rude, but “no” is simply the only word that covers it. The fact that some groups may have traveled to this conference using money provided by the Federal government in no way places the conference itself under the auspices of the U.S. Government, its Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. To argue otherwise is simply specious.

This was an international conference, held in Spain, and sponsored by several dozen groups including private corporations, charities, the CDC, HHS, and other countries’ health organizations. First Amendment rights, whether for Tommy Thompson, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, or anyone else.

Because the people organizing the conference are not the people providing the funding. The people doing the funding are the United States Congress. The people organizing the conference are the International AIDS Society, which is headquartered in Sweden and governed by representatives from five geographic regions around the world. I trust you can see the difference. Yes?

If a group of people I’m paying act like jerks in the same country that I’m a guest in, I will undergo steps to make sure that they think twice before doing that again. At minimum, I’ll make sure that they do this on their own budget.

You aren’t being rude, but you are missing my point.

The conference is not under the auspices of the federal government, but the disrupters are. If they are using my money to go to Spain and try to shout down their opponents, I want that stopped. At the least, I want to know that I am in no way supporting this kind of neo-fascist behavior.

The difference was never in dispute. I do not want the conference stopped. What I want stopped is the funding used by certain of the groups attending to disrupt the proceedings.

The conference or the International AIDS Society does not have to do anything different, because they did not receive federal funding and then behave like assholes. The disrupters do, because they did.

If the gay groups who behaved in so disgraceful a fashion want to use their funding to attend the conference, to lobby the UN or the Spanish government for increased funding, to promote safer sex, or in other ways to petition who they like “for redress of grievances”, have at it. This is, as far as I can tell, what funds for advocacy are intended to achieve.

If they wish to use their funding to disrupt the order of the conference, scream down those who they dislike, or otherwise behave “impolitely”, their funding should be cut off. Whether this happens in Spain or in my back yard.

My assertion is that all public subsidies come with an implied requirement that the money not be used in harmful ways. If you need welfare, I am willing to supply it, but I want to be able to require that you do not use the money to buy liquor or to gamble. If I hire a construction company to build a road, I don’t want the money to be used to run a protection racket. And if I fund an AIDS group, I don’t want them to use the money to attend a conference and try to prevent any other voice from being heard but their own.

All these people spent the 90s telling us that “silence equals death”. Now it is the 21st century, and what are they doing? Trying to silence the ones they don’t like.

And expecting me to pay for it.


I have no problem with the activists’ actions. Advocacy is as much a part of solving the problem of AIDS as anything else - if it weren’t for early groups that steadily pressured the government to recognize a disease they wanted to just ignore, we wouldn’t be where we are today (which is far, far from a permanent solution).

My $0.02.


At the risk of violating Godwin’s Law, it sounds too much like brownshirts to me.

I read this in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but I think he was quoting someone else.

Anyway, not all the pressure was for the government to recognize AIDS. Remember the rhetoric about closing the bath houses in NYC? I can’t remember the name of the public health commissioner in New York, but I read his book. He describes those opposed to the closings as using this same kind of tactic, or worse.

Please understand that I don’t necessarily think AIDS groups need to say “Pretty please” before they do anything. It is just that the line between ‘street theater’ and publicity stunts on the one hand, and harassment and threats on the other, may be a fine one - but it exists nonetheless.