Freedom of Association: The First Liberty – Stoutonia

Dr. Luke Sheahan, an assistant professorin the Department of Political Science at Duquesne University, held apresentation at the Memorial Student Center in regard to the freedom of associationand how it affects us as individuals in our everyday lives. The presentationwas held on Tuesday, Sept 17.

Freedom of association is defined to bethe right to form societies, clubs and other groups of people and to meet withthose people individually without interference by the government. If taken thewrong way, it can derail other rights such as freedom of religion, speech andpress.

Dr. Sheahan explains that upon evidencein multiple court cases in the past, the United States Supreme Court does notrealize how big of an impact the freedom of association really has. One of thelargest court cases to ever weaken this First Amendment Law was Christian LegalSociety (CLS) vs Martinez in 2010.

The court ruled in this case that theuniversity can force a religious student group to allow anyone to join thatgroup, whether that individual agreed to the terms of the group or not. Whathas seemed to be missing throughout the entirety of cases related to this oneis more or less the concept of association itself, Dr. Sheahan said.

To better understand what makes up anassociation, Dr. Sheahan used Robert Nisbets explanation of the seven piecesthat make up a group. These pieces are function, dogma, authority, hierarchy,solidarity, status and superiority. Each group must have some form of thesevalues. In relation to the Christian Legal Society (CLS) vs Martinez, the CLScontains all of the Nisbets to be considered a group and every group orassociation will have functional autonomy. What this means is that each groupfunctions based on what they wish to do.

Dr. Sheahan said that the freedom of associationgives a lot of power to other rights, and that the idea of assembly andassociation being undercut, can undercut a lot of other important things suchas religious studies, recreational events or even certain groups within theworkplace. Dr. Sheahan has set up the Freedom of Association Protection Act.This act will protect the freedom of association in its entirety. The act drawsupon the true power of the First Amendment as a whole and not piece by piece.

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Freedom of Association: The First Liberty - Stoutonia

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