United States Program

ICNL seeks to create a legal environment that protects and strengthens nonprofits, activists, and philanthropy in the United States. We promote freedoms of association, assembly, and expression by analyzing trends in civic space, tracking state and federal laws affecting protest, and providing nonprofit organizations with information about legal compliance and risk management. The U.S. program also aims to reduce the negative impact on civil society of “foreign agent” legislation and counter-terrorism measures.

Be sure to browse our U.S. Protest Law TrackerCurrent Trends, and Highlights.


A close up picture of the coronavirus (Photo: CDC/Unsplash)
Current Trend: COVID-19 and Civic Freedom

The United States is in the midst of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. All 50 states, as well as the federal government, have now declared emergencies and issued a range of executive orders to combat the spread of the virus. While COVID-19 is a serious threat to public health, measures to address it should not become a serious threat to civil liberties. Read our Current Trend analysis here.

An Alaska pipeline (Photo: Jim Black/Pixabay)
Overview: Critical Infrastructure Bills in the US

Across the country, communities are gathering at rallies and marches to express concerns about pipelines’ impact on the environment, landowner rights, and indigenous land. “Critical infrastructure” laws target these kinds of gatherings. This one-page overview explains what these laws do and how they can be used to limit freedom of assembly in the US.

Workers hold US flags at a labor rally in Iowa (photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr)
The Foreign Agents Registration Act Is Broken

The Foreign Agents Registration Act has become a central policy tool to respond to foreign interference in U.S. politics. However, stepping up enforcement of FARA before reforming the act is a recipe for disaster. FARA is overbroad and has been used to target U.S. activists and nonprofits. Find out more by reading our article in Foreign Policy entitled The Foreign Agents Registration Act is Broken.

Legislative Briefer: Critical Infrastructure Bills

The United States has seen a rise in demonstrations surrounding the construction of pipelines by those concerned about their harm to the environment, indigenous land, and landowner rights. In response, several states have proposed bills that proponents claim will protect critical infrastructure from trespass and vandalism. This legislative briefer focuses on how critical infrastructure bills can undermine protesters’ right to peaceful assembly by creating draconian penalties for trespass as well as severely penalizing vaguely defined interference with the construction or operation of critical infrastructure sites. Download the full briefer here.

Key Resources

ICNL's U.S. Protest Law Tracker - landing page button

U.S. Protest Law Tracker

Started in 2017, the tracker compiles bills – proposed, enacted, or rejected – that could restrict the right to peaceful assembly around the United States.

ICNL's work on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act

Foreign Agents Registration Act

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has been used to target nonprofits, activists, and others. Learn more about the impact on civil society of its broad and vague provisions.

ICNL's work on issues impacting Freedom of Assembly in the U.S.

Freedom of Assembly

The ability to protest is a cornerstone of U.S. democracy. Browse ICNL’s resources on current threats to the right of assembly in the United States, including legislative briefers, analyses, and reports.

ICNL's list of resources and information on compliance and risk management for U.S. nonprofits.

Compliance & Risk Management

This page provides resources for U.S. nonprofits seeking to comply with federal and state laws as well as learn more about risk management.

ICNL's Global Grantmaking Country Notes: A guide produced for the Council on Foundations for U.S. international grantmakers.

Global Grantmaking Country Notes

In partnership with the Council on Foundations, ICNL maintains reports on thirty-four countries to assist U.S grantmakers when they undertake equivalency determinations for foreign grantees.