Members Only: the Right to ‘Private’ Associations

The Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, which flows from the “right of the people peaceably to assemble” clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has interpreted that clause to affirm the freedom of association. Inherent in the right to associate is the right not to associate. That can entail the right to bar selected persons from one’s company -- the right to form private associations. In June 2009, the Wall Street Journal ran “Private Clubs That Aren't Private Under the Law” by Nathan Koppel. He quotes Andrew Koppelman, a constitutional-law professor at Northwestern University School of Law: “When an association reaches a certain size and importance, the public has a legitimate interest in what goes on inside them.” By “public,” Koppelman surely meant government, not the People. And the “legitimate interest” that government would have in large associations is in making them even larger, as...(Read Full Article)

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