NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 11, 2013

How soon they forget

To the editor:

With all of the battles fought for civil rights on the streets and in the courts, you’d think that the Democrats, especially President Obama, would be empathtic toward civil liberties for all the people.

Here’s a couple examples of what I found on the Internet on how a state or federal agency may or may not compell people to disclose their various organizations.

NAACP V. PATTERSON, 357 U. S. 449 (1958)

This case involved the NAACP and the state of Alabama wanting the NAACP to disclose its membership list for taxes, because there was a question on the NAACP’S eligibility to conduct business in the State. Here is the decision.

Petitioner has a right to assert on behalf of its members a claim that they are entitled under the Federal Constitution to be protected from being compelled by the state to disclose their affiliation with the association.

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. On the other hand, the right to immunity from association is not always absolute as the examples below describe.

In 1959 the Court upheld the right of the state of New Hampshire to order a group with ties to known communists to turn over a list of individuals who had been guests at one of its camps. The case was Uphaus v. Wyman, 360 U.S. 72 (1959). The Court in Uphaus distinguished NAACP on several grounds. The Court more argued that the state of New Hampshire’s approach to investigating “subversive” activity was narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest.

The NAACP has not always protected individuals seeking to remain anonymous. The courts have sometimes found that the state’s interest in the accountability of potential wrong-doers outweighs the privacy interest in confidential group association or individual expression. For example, if someone overhears a group of people or a person who may be a member of a group that is planning to rob a bank or violently overthrow the government, then the police or feds can get a subpoena to get the records of that specific group of which the suspects are members.

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