NAACP v. Alabama after 60 Years: Should Associational Privacy Still Be Protected by the Constitution?

Featuring Bradley A. Smith, Lawrence Noble, and John Samples

Sixty years ago, the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark case of NAACP v. Alabama. In 1956, as part of the civil rights struggle, the state of Alabama sought the membership lists of the NAACP chapter in that state. The Court ruled against the state and discerned a “vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations.” The decision remains a high point from the civil rights era. However, many now deny the Court’s assertion that a broad right to privacy offers a vital protection for the freedom to associate and to speak.

Since the decision, the Court has placed few limits on government’s power to mandate disclosure of political activities and associations. As the new online era of speech dawns, the principles at stake in NAACP v. Alabama remain at the center of public debates. Is the right to associational privacy recognized in NAACP v. Alabama still good law? Or should the Court reconsider the tie between privacy and association? Please join us for a vigorous debate that takes this important anniversary as a starting point for our common future.