During the past decade, courts have struggled to reconcile anti-discrimination statutes with claims by private organizations to First Amendment protection for decisions regarding their missions and membership. Can the Boy Scouts expel a gay Scoutmaster? (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale) Can a state law school deny official recognition to a religious club that requires members to affirm certain beliefs regarding homosexuality? (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez) In resolving these questions courts have frequently invoked the freedom of "expressive association," a phrase that appears nowhere in the text of the First Amendment but has been a part of modern judicial doctrine.
In Liberty’s Refuge, Professor Inazu argues that this "expressive association" mode of analysis is at least in part responsible for what he argues is inadequate protection for associational autonomy--and that a return to the more textually and historically grounded "right of the people peaceably to assemble" is necessary to recapture the benefits of a meaningful pluralism. The Constitution contemplated forcefully dissenting political and expressive groups that would serve as a check on majority rule’s tendency to turn into a force for stifling nonconformity. To maintain an environment in which these groups will flourish, Inazu contends, our First Amendment jurisprudence must recover a more robust conception of associational autonomy grounded in a better understanding of the centrality and breadth of the assembly right.
John Inazu, a professor at Washington University Law School, is joined by critical commenter Michael McConnell, the Richard & Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, as well as Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, to discuss the book.