What is A Private Membership Association?

A Private Membership Association is not a new concept, they have been around for many years. Most likely you haven’t even realized that there are rights you can use to stay in the Private to conduct your business. So let’s dive into the private world of PMAs.

PMA Structure and the background

We must first understand the US Constitution specifically The right of association.

This is part of the “bundle of rights protected by the First Amendment and related to “the right of privacy implicit in the First Amendment.”

“The right of association has become a part of the bundle of rights protected by the First Amendment, and the need for a pervasive right of privacy against government intrusion has been recognized, though not always given the recognition it deserves. Unpopular groups like popular ones are protected. Unpopular groups if forced to disclose their membership lists may suffer reprisals or other forms of public hostility. But whether a group is popular or unpopular, the right of privacy implicit in the First Amendment creates an area into which the Government may not enter.” Gibson, 372 U.S. at 569-70 (citations and footnote omitted).

See  NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958). The Court held that “the immunity from state scrutiny of membership lists which the Association claims on behalf of its members is here so related to the right of the members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. at 466. Justice Harlan opined that “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces the freedom of speech.”

This is just scratching the surface when it comes to court cases and parts of the US Constitution that support a properly formed PMA.

Other sections of the US Constitution that cover our rights when it comes to PMAs are the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. These amendments along with standing court cases allow us to operate a Private Membership Association.

Now you might be thinking I can do whatever I want in my properly setup PMA! For the most part, you would be correct in saying that; however, there are limits.

The only exception is if your association practices propose or promote a clear and present danger of substantive evil.

This court case also referred to the private domain as a “sanctuary from unjustified interference by the State” in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 at 534-535. And as a “constitutional shelter” in Roberts v. United States, 82 L.Ed.2d 462 at 472. And again as a “shield” in Roberts v. United States, supra at 474.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court in Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516 at 531, specifically refers to the “Domains set apart…for free assembly.” The First Amendment right to association creates a “preserve” Baird v. Arizona, 401 U.S. 1.

The private domain of an association is a sanctuary, constitutional shelter, shield, and domain set apart and a preserve according to a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. This is why it is important to have a properly formed private membership association.

To find out if a Private Membership Association is right for you book a time with me below.