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”
- On Nov. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases on whether it violates the Eighth Amendment for a minor (under age 18) to be sentenced to life in prison ...CONTINUE READING
- In recent months, at least three major newspapers have carried columns attempting to push Chief Justice John Roberts into voting to uphold a grossly unconstitutional federal law. But their cheap distortions and ...CONTINUE READING
- Stung by a rising tide of resistance and a closing window of opportunity, House Democrats have unleashed a new version of ObamaCare, weighing in at 1,990 pages and with a $1 trillion ...CONTINUE READING
- Dear Speaker Pelosi and Mr. Gibbs: On Oct. 20, Politico published my column in which I explained how the individual mandate in the health care bill is unconstitutional, since there is no constitutional ...CONTINUE READING
- Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was the Imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, died in a shoot-out on Oct. 28 after firing on FBI agents during a raid in Dearborn, Michigan. ...CONTINUE READING
- President Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) seems determined to go after a small Catholic college in North Carolina. Readers of First Things, the thoughtful journal founded by Rev. Richard Neuhaus, are ...CONTINUE READING
- My Oct. 20 column in POLITICO (“Making Individuals Buy Insurance Is Unconstitutional”) explained why Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Erwin Chemerinsky then wrote a rebuttal Oct. 23 (“Health Care Reform Is Constitutional”), ...CONTINUE READING
- If your company was in a financial fix, would you (a) try to attract top talent or (b) cut salaries so low that top talent wouldn’t return your calls?CONTINUE READING
- A situation is unfolding in Florida that is illustrative of how far American culture has listed toward a militantly-secular society that is overtly hostile to expressions of faith and Judeo-Christian traditions. This ...CONTINUE READING
- In 2008, the Supreme Court decided a major voting-rights case, making it clear that laws requiring voters to show identification are constitutional if certain safeguards are in place. Now, it’s not so clear ...CONTINUE READING
- The Supreme Court joined in a fight between the ACLU and the federal government over a World War I memorial in the shape of a cross. While neither legal team hit the ...CONTINUE READING
- Where is Art Carney when you need him? The straight man for the classic Honeymooners TV show could deliver a line sorely needed at today’s Supreme Court hearing on the fate of the ...CONTINUE READING
- It is a privilege to be here and to discuss such important and timely topics. As some of you may know, I used to represent the United States as the Ambassador ...CONTINUE READING
- September 9, 2009 was a historic day at the U.S. Supreme Court. Meeting in special session, the Court considered a legal challenge pitting Barack Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer against a living ...CONTINUE READING
- Three Florida school employees will go to federal court on September 17 to see if they’ll be thrown behind bars. The reason? Prayer. Their school made a deal with the ACLU to ...CONTINUE READING
- Gun owners are increasingly concerned with the White House’s citing of foreign law when it comes to gun rights. Look no further than the recent Senate confirmation of Professor Harold Koh to ...CONTINUE READING
- Over the next two weeks, one of the critical issues will be your civil rights on guns. Senators could benefit from context to understand the importance of this civil right to protect ...CONTINUE READING
- In Dearborn, Michigan, where the local mosque’s call to prayer is broadcast over the town by loudspeakers, a group of Christian evangelists were told that they could not pass out Bibles on ...CONTINUE READING
- “We’re not going to win this case, but that’s okay. Once we get ‘hate crime’ laws on the books, we’re going to go after the Scouts and all the other bigots.” This was ...CONTINUE READING
- Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor claim that her Second Amendment rulings are examples of “judicial restraint.” The problem is that she’s restraining the Second Amendment.CONTINUE READING