The Right Of Association: Why You Should Stand Up For Your Rights

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The right of association is a fundamental right in the United States. This right allows individuals to choose with whom they want to associate. It is protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and is, therefore, sacrosanct. This right lets us form clubs, businesses, unions, and more.

Association, Right to

The legal right of a group of people acting together to advance a mutual interest or achieve a common objective. The right of association is not expressly protected by the First Amendment. It is derived from safeguards for expression and assembly contained in the First Amendment. The utility of association as means of achieving political and social goals was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in NAACP v Alabama (1958) 357 US 449, 2 L Ed 2d 1488, 78 S Ct 1163. The Court said “Effective and advocacy of both the public and private point of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association.” Given the fundamental roles of associational activity, government bears an obligation to insure that interference with such activity does no occur. The Court struck down a state membership disclosure requirement in NAACP v Alabama because the regulation adversely affected the ability of the NAACP and its members “to pursue their collective effort to foster beliefs which they admittedly have right to advocate.” Associational rights have also come to be a pivotal consideration case challenging regulations designed to protect the electoral process from the possibly corrupting influencing of money. See BUCKLEY v VALEO and KEYISHIAN v BOARD OF REGENTGS

Why this is Significance: The right of association my have positive effects in a democracy, but regulation may still be imposed. Among the more troublesome association issues have involved statutory attempts to prohibit criminal syndicalism. Syndicalism refers to the takeover of the means of industrial production by workers. Criminal syndicalism involves the advocacy of, or participation in, unlawful acts to achieve political change. Many states had criminal syndicalism statutes, which were upheld initially because the association was seen as concerted action threatening public security. (See Whitney v California (1927) 274 US 357, 71 L Ed 1095, 47 S Ct 641) The Warren Court rejected this approach because such laws were directed at “mere abstract teaching” or advocacy which is not necessarily related to unlawful acts. It said laws that sanction membership unaccompanied by a specific intent to further the unlawful goals of the organization violate constitutional limitations.

There have been many legal cases that have dealt with the right to freedom of association in the United States and other countries. Some notable examples include:

  • National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees workers the right to form and join labor unions, is a valid exercise of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.
  • NAACP v. Alabama (1958) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the state of Alabama could not require the NAACP to disclose its membership list, as this would have a chilling effect on the organization’s freedom of association.
  • Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that students do not lose their constitutional rights when they enter a school, and that school officials cannot prohibit students from wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.
  • Roberts v. United States Jaycees (1984) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Jaycees’ policy of excluding women from full membership violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Boy Scouts of America, as a private organization, has the right to exclude openly gay members.

These are just a few examples of legal cases that have dealt with freedom of association. It is important to note that the interpretations and applications of this right may vary depending on jurisdiction and the specific legal context.

The First Amendment protects our right to assemble and associate. This means we can gather together and join forces with others to achieve a common goal. This right is essential because it allows us to form communities and to voice our opinions on the issues that matter to us.

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