The right to associate freely is a cherished American principle. Our freedom to join or leave groups who share a common viewpoint was guaranteed for posterity by the Founding Fathers under the First Amendment’s guarantees for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
Over the years, court rulings have further strengthened this seminal value. In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NAACP v. Alabama that states could not seize membership lists. In Hurley v. Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995), involving the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Court clarified that a group does not have to open its activities to individuals who do not share the group’s particular social, religious, moral or political values.
The courts have clearly distinguished between invidious discrimination based on immutable characteristics such as race, which is illegal, and the legal right to associate or not associate with individuals based on common and/or opposing viewpoints.
Over the years, the ACLU and other liberal groups have vigorously attacked this fundamental American principle by insisting that government has the power to tell citizens, in their private lives, with whom they should and should not associate. Conservative groups are under increasing pressure to divulge the identities of their donors, members, and other supporters. Historically, when state courts or governments have inappropriately forced the disclosure of such names (even under sealed court orders that were later leaked), the individuals whose identities were disclosed were often harmed. Protagonists on the left have engaged in vehement protests, harassment, public and private haranguing, lawsuits, and even violence solely because of an individual’s affiliation with a particular group, or their perceived political, social, moral, religious or other viewpoints.
For instance, through multiple lawsuits, unlawful evictions, and corporate pressure, a vocal minority of atheists, homosexual activists and feminists assailed the Boy Scouts of America, finally forcing the organization in 2013 to agree to violate its own century-old moral code. The Scouts gave in despite having won for decades, with the help of the ACRU and others, every single lawsuit that had challenged the Scouts’ right as a private, voluntary organization to control its membership and the individuals that were entitled to such membership.
The battles continue. Militant liberals within federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service are targeting individuals and groups based on their political beliefs, a clear violation of our First Amendment freedoms of association and speech, as well as the right to petition one’s government for redress.
The ACRU is determined through public advocacy, legal action, and public outreach to defend the core principle of freedom of association against all those who want to twist the First Amendment into an instrument of harassment and political intimidation.
Freedom of Association “In The News”
- In its most recent decision on elections, the Supreme Court ignored the clear text of the Constitution to approve an election change that reduces the accountability of government.CONTINUE READING
- Same-sex marriage encounters the Constitution in Alabama.CONTINUE READING
- The home of the brave is becoming the land of the tongue-tied.CONTINUE READING
- When it comes to assigning culpability for crimes by disturbed individuals, it depends on who the victims and perpetrators are.CONTINUE READING
- The law doesn’t demand that a single dissident be allowed to spoil the enjoyment of many.CONTINUE READING
- American Civil Liberties Union imposes its beliefs, one institution at a time.CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Policy Board Member and Professor of Economics Dr. Walter E. Williams was published May 14, 2014 on Townhall.com. Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers owner, was recorded by his mistress ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 9, 2014 on The Washington Times website. After the full House of Representatives cited former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 31, 2014 on The Washington Times website. The trouble with liberals is not just that they eventually run out of other people’s ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 24, 2014 on The Washington Times website. On Thursday, the FBI announced an indictment of Dinesh D’Souza, maker of the hit documentary ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara was published September 13, 2013 on Forbes.com. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal explained President Obama’s 2012 reelection in the September 4 edition as ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Policy Board Member and Professor of Economics Dr. Walter E. Williams was published September 11, 2013 on Townhall.com. No one can blame you if you start out in life ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published September 9, 2013 on The Washington Times website. Holder is cool with marijuana, but not with preventing election fraud. I’m all for according public ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published September 6, 2013 on Breitbart.com. Updating our earlier report on Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, a Christian serving in the Air Force ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Policy Board Member and Professor of Economics Dr. Walter E. Williams was published September 4, 2013 on Townhall.com. Here’s a question: What is the true test of one’s commitment ...CONTINUE READING
- This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell and Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute was published August 28, 2011 on The Huffington Post. The Obama Administration has fired its opening salvo against ...CONTINUE READING
- On July, 2010 Warren Cole Smith wrote an article appearing on WorldMag.com. In northern New Mexico, The Boy Scouts of America own the largest youth camp in the world. Philmont Scout Ranch ...CONTINUE READING
- The American Civil Rights Union is extremely pleased with the June 23rd unanimous jury decision in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in favor of the Boy Scouts ...CONTINUE READING
- ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight wrote this column appearing on WashingtonTimes.com on May 7, 2010. Which of America’s Founders could have foreseen a federal judge in 2003 kicking the Boy Scouts out of ...CONTINUE READING
- ACRU legal counsel John Armor wrote this column on March 17, 2010. On Tuesday, the New Jersey Court of Appeals cleared the way for the recall of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to proceed. ...CONTINUE READING
Freedom of Association “In the Courts”
- February 9, the American Civil Rights Union filed an amicus brief in support of a grassroots citizens effort to petition for recall of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The Sussex County Tea Party and ...CONTINUE READING
- The case McDonald v. City of Chicago presents to the Supreme Court the issue of whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms is applicable to state and local governments, or instead ...CONTINUE READING
- Congress created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to enforce the Sarbanes Oxley law. But Congress provided for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), not the President, to appoint the members ...CONTINUE READING
- Last year’s watershed Second Amendment case of District of Columbia v. Heller was just the beginning of the fight over the meaning of the right to keep and bear arms. The most ...CONTINUE READING
- The City of San Diego has long leased two properties to the San Diego unit of the Boy Scouts of America in return for the construction, operation and maintenance of youth recreational ...CONTINUE READING
- The ACRU joins other organizations supporting homeschooling to file this brief in a California state appellate court arguing for a constitutional right for parents to choose homeschooling for their children. The argument ...CONTINUE READING
- This case involves whether use by the Scouts of Balboa Park and Fiesta Island in San Diego under a long term lease with the city amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. ...CONTINUE READING
- In this case the Boy Scouts sued because the state of Connecticut excluded them from the combined charitable campaign for state employees on the grounds that the Scouts were a discriminatory organization. ...CONTINUE READING
- Denial of the Sea Scouts’ right to free berthing of its vessels as accorded other non-profit groups. Decided by California State Supreme Court on March 9, 2006, against ACRU’s position. Plaintiffs and ...CONTINUE READING
- Decided by the United States Supreme Court on March 6, 2006, in favor of ACRU’s position. In this case the Supreme Court held that the Federal government has the power to condition ...CONTINUE READING
- This case involves whether use by the Scouts of a military base for their national Jamboree involves an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The District Court held that it does. Oral arguments were ...CONTINUE READING
- Decided by the United States Supreme Court on June 28, 2000, in favor of ACRU’s position. This case involved the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court holding that the Scouts could not ...CONTINUE READING