Right/Freedom of Association/History

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Freedom of Association

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What is the oldest source in any country that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

John Locke’s “A Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689) primarily concerns religious associations, but he extends certain arguments to associations in general. The text in the next paragraph is Boyd’s summarization (241), where sections in quotes come directly from “A Letter.” As Boyd notes, though Locke defends policies that allow freer association, he does so because of their practical benefits, not because it is a fundamental right. (Boyd, 241)

"'Suppose this Business of Religion were let alone,' Locke hypothesizes, 'and that there were some other Distinction made between men and men, upon account of their different Complexions, Shapes, and Features.' Under conditions of differential treatment, such persons, 'united together by one common persecution,' would become just as dangerous and disruptive. Conversely, if the state eliminated special privileges, on the one hand, or disproportionate burdens, on the other, then supposedly intractable religious or ethnic affiliations would become matters of complete indifference, no more or less contentious than other private decisions about how to spend one’s money, manage one’s estates, or marry off one’s daughter." (Boyd, 241)

Though Enlightenment commentators like Locke argued for and against greater freedom to associate. However, the first to mention it as an absolute right was John Stuart Mill, who argues in On Liberty that “from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived” (1859, 16).


Boyd, Richard. “THE MADISONIAN PARADOX OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION.” Social philosophy & policy 25, no. 2 (2008): 235–262.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Oxford World Classics

What historical forces or events, if any, contributed to a widespread belief in its importance? 🖉 edit

Assertions of freedom of association as a right first emerged during the Enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th centuries from philosophers such as Locke and Montesquieu. Locke forms his argument on a larger scale in terms of political society as a whole: “Nothing can make any man so but his actually entering into [society] by positive engagement and express promise and compact. This is that which, I think, concerning the beginning of political societies, and that consent which makes any one a member of any commonwealth” (Locke 1690, 158). Montesquieu however specifies his argument in terms of economic associations: “… all associations of merchants, in order to carry on a particular commerce, are seldom proper in absolute governments” (Montesquieu 1748, 352). Conversely, if associations are not “proper” in absolute governments, one can conclude that Montesquieu advocated for freedom of association as a necessary component of a democratic society to protect individual interests. While Enlightenment philosophers were among the first to raise the issue of association rights, it took several hundred years for it to be officially and legally codified. Major historical movements that have promoted freedom of association are of twofold importance: firstly, association rights are often exercised to highlight societal or political injustices, but the right itself also lends legitimacy to the people who want to see progress in their societies and governments.

In terms of formal acceptances of freedom of association, the first country-specific code emerged in France in 1789 and the United States in 1791. In the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, Article 11 establishes that “the free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man”). Shortly after the publication of this document, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified, ensuring that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (U.S. Constitution. Amendment I). While freedom of association is not explicitly identified here, the freedoms that are listed are specific elements of what constitutes freedom of association as a whole.


The promotion of freedom of association did not emerge on an international scale until after World War II. First in 1948 with the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 20 provides that “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association." This was the first international agreement to refer to human rights and liberties that everyone should enjoy, regardless of nationality or citizenship. And while this is not a universally legally binding document, it serves as a baseline for legal frameworks around the world and establishes freedom of association as a fundamental right of democratic societies. Building upon the UDHR later in 1966, the UN established the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to ensure the protection of fundamental civil and political rights in each of its participant countries. Article 22 states that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests. 2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others…

While the UDHR is an internationally focused agreement, it is not legally binding for the partner countries and therefore has no real jurisdiction or right to action. Conversely, the ICCPR as a legal document guarantees the rights it establishes in each country that ratifies the Covenant.


The American labor and trade union movement of the early 20th century was a major historical force that contributed to a more widespread belief in freedom of association. In light of the industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuries, the movement fought for the rights of workers to form trade unions and bargain collectively. As we saw in the UDHR, one can think of union membership as an exercise of freedom of association. An example from the decade before the promulgation of the UDHR that might make this clear is the passage of the National Labor Relations Act into law in 1935. Its main objective was to guarantee freedom of association for employees via the formation of union organizations. Section 7. C provides that “employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…” (United States Code: National Labor Relations). Because of the work of trade organizations like the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, freedom of association was now a legally protected right for American employees in their places of work.


The women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and 20th centuries was greatly dependent on freedom of association as a means of action, and it also helped to promote a more widespread belief in this freedom as a fundamental right. Organizations like the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in the US and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK were instrumental in organizing efforts of like-minded people who wanted to see gender equality for political rights. One of the most notable events of the movement was the Seneca Falls Convention that convened in 1848. At this convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton produced the Declaration of Sentiments, which explained both what activists wanted to see produced from their actions (i.e., gender equality socially, politically, religiously, and economically), but also how they planned to use freedom of association to publicize their message and complaints. The Declaration proclaims that “we shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press on our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country” (Stanton, 1848). By utilizing freedom of association to organize the efforts of their activists, they could achieve greater clarity of message and work more efficiently to bring their goals to fruition.


Similar to the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights Movement in America was highly dependent on the right to join organizations of one’s choosing and therefore was crucial to affirming the importance of freedom of association. But unlike the suffrage movement, there was an added barrier to the free utilization of this right— institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. Organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) emerged as a way for like-minded individuals to coordinate efforts and provide support for other activists, but they were often met with resistance on grounds of racial discrimination. In the landmark case NAACP v. Alabama, John Patterson sued the state in an attempt to ban the organization from operating in Alabama based on the argument that “the NAACP was a foreign corporation not qualified to do business in Alabama” (Rubinowitz 2017, 1237). Patterson then “obtained an order compelling the NAACP to provide its membership list as part of the state’s assessment of the organization.” But “the organization refused to comply because of the harm that would cause both the individual members and the NAACP itself" (Rubinowitz 2017, 1237). The case reached the Supreme Court in 1958, and a unanimous Court decided in favor of the petitioners, explaining that “in the circumstances of this case, compelled disclosure of petitioner's membership lists is likely to constitute an effective restraint on its members' freedom of association…” (NAACP v. Alabama 357, 1958).


The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa spanned several decades of the 20th century and was aimed at dismantling the systemic racism that the government of South Africa was built on. It utilized and promoted freedom of association as a means to organize resistance efforts and promote fundamental equality which contributed to a widespread belief in this right. The African National Congress (ANC) was the primary group leading the liberation movement for many years before being forced to go underground in the 1960s. Despite this, and after decades of repression, censorship, and violence at the hands of the apartheid government, the resistance efforts reached new heights in the 1980s. As more community organizations began to appear, it became clear that there was a need for greater structure to achieve their goals of liberation. This led to the creation of organizations like the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The importance of these organizations cannot be overstated-- it was the persistent efforts of anti-apartheid associations that won out in the end and put the ANC in power from 1994 onwards (ANC History: The Struggle for People’s Power, 2023).


The Solidarity movement was a trade union movement in Poland in the late 20th century that leveraged freedom of association to protest the communist regime. Communist rule in Poland had long been unpopular, and Solidarity was not the first movement to arise in opposition to them, but it was the first to successfully utilize the right of association to produce change which proved its importance as a fundamental right (Bartkowski 2009, 2). Following years of economic decline, Poland saw massive labor strikes in the summer of 1980. The trade union Solidarity was born out of the Gdansk Shipyard under the leadership of Lech Walesa and was legalized by the Polish government shortly thereafter as they determined that “it is considered expedient to establish new self-governing trade unions that will genuinely represent the working class” (Gdansk Agreement 1980, 11). They became the first legal trade union in the Eastern Bloc, and they eventually grew into a popular political movement. But as its popularity and size continued to develop, the communist regime imposed martial law and forced Solidarity underground. However, Solidarity survived this repression and later played a key role in the appointment of the country’s first non-communist prime minister nearly a decade later (Bartkowski, 2009).


“ANC History.” African National Congress. Accessed June 16, 2023. https://www.anc1912.org.za/history/. Baron de Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat. The Spirit of the Laws. Translated by Thomas Nugent. Batoche Books, 2001.

Bartkowski, Maciej. “Poland’s Solidarity Movement (1980-1989).” International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, December 2009. https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/polands-solidarity-movement-1980-1989/.

“Declaration of the Rights of Man.” Avalon Project. Accessed June 16, 2023. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp.

Khronika Press. “The Gdansk Agreement: Protocol of Agreement between the Government Commission and the Interfactory Strike Committee Concluded on August 31, 1980 at Gdansk Shipyards.” World Affairs 145, no. 1 (1982): 11–19. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20671927.

Locke, John. “Of the Beginning of Political Societies.” Essay. In Two Treatises of Government 10, 10:146–58. London: Thomas Tegg et. al, 1823.

NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson (U.S. Supreme Court June 30, 1958).

Rubinowitz, Leonard S. 2017. “The Courage of Civil Rights Lawyers: Fred Gray and His Colleagues.” Case Western Reserve Law Review 67 (4): 1227–75. https://search-ebscohost-com.uc.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=123785450&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. “The Declaration of Sentiments.” The Seneca Falls Declaration 1848 . Accessed June 16, 2023. http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1826-1850/the-seneca-falls-declaration-1848.php.

United Nations General Assembly. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). New York: United Nations General Assembly, 16 December 1966.

United Nations General Assembly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). New York: United Nations General Assembly, 1948.

U.S. Constitution. Amendment I

United States Code: National Labor Relations, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-166 Suppl. 2 . 1935.

What is the oldest written source in this country that mentions this right?


Afghanistan 🖉 edit

Article 32 of the 1964 Constitution articulated protections of Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association. With reference to freedom of assembly, it stated: "Afghan citizens have the right to assemble unarmed, without prior permission of the State, for the achievement of legitimate and peaceful purposes, in accordance with the provisions of the law." With reference to freedom of association, it stated: "Afghan citizens have the right to establish, in accordance with the provisions of the law, associations for the realisation of material or spiritual purposes."

Freedom of association is mentioned in the Afghanistan constitution of 2004 under Chapter II article 35. However, according to a US State Department 2022 report, the Taliban has restricted freedom of association and assembly and does not respect the constitution.


1964 Afghanistan Constitution: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=afghanenglish

2004 Afghanistan Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Afghanistan_2004?%20lang=en

US State Department Afghanistan 2022 Human Rights Report: https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/415610_AFGHANISTAN-2022-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf

Albania 🖉 edit

Article 199 of the 1928 Fundamental Statute of the Kingdom of Albania guaranteed freedom of association "in conformity with the law." Article 53 of the 1976 Albanian Constitution states that “citizens enjoy the freedom of speech, the press, organization, association, assembly and public manifestation. The state guarantees the realization of these freedoms, it creates the conditions for them, and makes available the necessary material means” (“The Albanian Constitution of 1976").

Freedom of Association is also asserted in the Albanian Constitution of 1998, in Chapter III, Article 46.


1928 Fundamental Statute of the Kingdom of Albania: https://www.hoelseth.com/royalty/albania/albconst19281201.html

1976 Albania Constitution: https://data.globalcit.eu/NationalDB/docs/ALB%20The%20Constitution%20of%20the%20Peoples%20Socialist%20Republic%20of%20Albania%201976.pdf

1998 Albania Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Albania_2012

Algeria 🖉 edit

Article 19 of the 1963 Algerian Constitution states that “the Republic guarantees freedom of the press and of other means of information, freedom of association, freedom of speech and public intervention, and freedom of assembly” (Middle East Journal, 1963) .


“The Algerian Constitution.” The Middle East journal 17, no. 4 (1963): 446–450.

Andorra 🖉 edit

Freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Principality of Andorra of 1993 in Chapter III, Article 17.


1993 Andorra Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Andorra_1993#s101

Angola 🖉 edit

Article 22 of the 1975 Angolan Constitution states: "Within the framework of the realization of the basic objectives of the People's Republic of Angola, the law will ensure freedom of expression, assembly, and association." Freedom of assembly in Angola is asserted in the 1992 Angolan constitution, part II, article 32: "Freedom of expression, assembly, demonstration and all other forms of expression shall be guaranteed." The 2010 constitution of Angola guarantees freedom of association in Chapter II, section I, article 48


1975 Angola Constitution: “The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Angola.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinonline. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/rsl2&i=197

1992 Angola Constitution: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Angola%20Constitution.pdf

2010 Angola Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Angola_2010

Antigua and Barbuda 🖉 edit

Freedom of association is asserted in Chapter II, article 13(1) of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution of 1981.


The 1981 Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1981/1106/pdfs/uksi_19811106_en.pdf

Argentina 🖉 edit

The first assertion of the freedom of association of Argentina can be found in Part I, Chapter 1, Article 14 of the Constitution of the Argentine Nation of 1853. The 1853 Constitution as amended to 1957 specifies association rights with reference to labor unions and trade unions. This language remains in the Constitution as amended to 1994.


1853 Argentina Constitution:French translation of the original Constitution of 1853 780 (2010) Chapter I: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzar0007&id=2&men_tab=srchresults

1853 Argentina Constitution as amended to 1957: English text of the Constitution of 1853 consolidated as amended to 1957. 3 (2011) First Part: Declarations, Rights, and Guarantees: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzar0015&id=7&men_tab=srchresults#

Argentina Constitution as of 1994: http://www.biblioteca.jus.gov.ar/Argentina-Constitution.pdf

Armenia 🖉 edit

Freedom of association is asserted in Article 25 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Armenia:

"Everyone has the right to form associations with other persons, including the right to form or join trade unions. Every citizen is entitled to form political parties with other citizens and join such parties. These rights may be restricted for persons belonging to the armed forces and law enforcement organizations. No one shall be forced to join a political party or association."


1995 Constitution of the Republic of Armenia: http://www.parliament.am/legislation.php?sel=show&ID=2425&lang=eng

Australia 🖉 edit

The right to association is mentioned in the ICCPR article 22. Australia ratified this treaty in 1980. In the Australian constitution there is no free-standing right to association.


Australian Law Reform Commission, "Traditional Rights and Freedoms - Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws", ALRC, Sydney (2014), ch. 4: https://www.alrc.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ip46_ch_4._freedom_of_association.pdf

Australian Human Rights Commission, "Freedom of Association: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/freedom-association

Austria 🖉 edit

Freedom of association was articulated in Article 12 of Austria's “Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals in the Kingdoms and Länder represented in the Council of the Realm” in 1867. According to a report on human rights practices from the US State Department, "The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights." Austria ratified the ILO "Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention" in 1950.


1867 Basic Law: https://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/au03000_.html

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Austria: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/austria/

1950 International Labor Organization Convention: https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:11300:0::NO::P11300_INSTRUMENT_ID:312232

Azerbaijan 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of association in the 1995 constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic is mentioned under Chapter III Article 58 section I through IV.


Constitution Of The Azerbaijan Republic, as amended on August 24, 2002: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Azerbaijan%20Constitution.pdf

Blaustein, Albert P., and Gisbert H. Flanz. Constitutions of the Countries of the World; a Series of Updated Texts, Constitutional Chronologies and Annotated Bibliographies. "Azerbaijan Republic, Booklet 2, 1996" Permanent ed. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y: Oceana Publications, 1971.

Bahrain 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of association in the 1973 Constitution of the State of Bahrain that was ratified May 26th is mentioned under chapter III, article 27: "Freedom to form associations and trade unions on a national basis and for lawful objectives and by peaceful means shall be guaranteed in accordance with the conditions and procedures prescribed by the law. No one shall be compelled to join or remain in any association or union."

One finds similar language in Article 27 of the 2002 Constitution with amendments through 2017: "The freedom to form associations and unions on national principles, for lawful objectives and by peaceful means is guaranteed under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamentals of the religion and public order are not infringed. No one can be forced to join any association or union or to continue as a member."


“Bahrain Old Constitution (1973).” International Constitutional Law Project: https://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ba01000_.html

Bahrain 2002 (Rev. 2017) Constitution.” Constitute: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bahrain_2017?lang=en.

Bangladesh 🖉 edit

Article 38 of the 1972 Bangladesh Constitution asserts: "Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality or public order."


1972 Bangladesh Constitution: http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/research/bangladesh-constitution.pdf

Barbados 🖉 edit

Article 21 of the 1966 Barbados Constitution held: "1. Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to political parties or to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests. 2. Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision - a. that is reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or b. that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons; or c. that imposes restrictions upon public officers or members of a disciplined force."


1966 Barbados Constitution: https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Barbados/barbados66.html

Belarus 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of association in the Republic of Belarus is mentioned in the Belarus constitution of 1994, ratified March 15 on section II, article 36. The constitution was amended through a referendum November 26th, 1996. Article 36 remains the same.


1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzby0006&id=4&men_tab=srchresults

1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus as amended in 1996: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL(2003)065-e

Belgium 🖉 edit

Article 25 of the 27 October 1830 Draft Constitution of Belgium asserted the right to association.

The 1831 Constitution of Belgium, ratified February 7th, asserted the right to freedom of association in Article 20. In the current constitution freedom of association is found in Article 27.


English translation of the French text of the draft of the constitution of 27 October 1830 35 (2009): https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbe0096&id=5&men_tab=srchresults

1831 Constitution of Belgium: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Belgium_1831

English translation of the Belgian Constitution as updated following the revision of 17 March 2021: https://www.dekamer.be/kvvcr/pdf_sections/publications/constitution/GrondwetUK.pdf

Belize 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of association in Belize is mentioned in the Belize Constitution of 1982 under Part II, Article 13. Section one articulated the right: "Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests or to form or belong to political parties or other political associations." Section two articulated exceptions and limitations: "Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes reasonable provision- that is required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; that is required for the purpose of protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons; that imposes restrictions on officers in the public service that are required for the proper performance of their functions; or that is required to prohibit any association the membership of which is restricted on grounds of race or colour."


1981 Constitution of Belize: https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Belize/belize81.html

Benin 🖉 edit

Article 2 of the 15 February 1959 Constitution of the Republic of Dahomey guaranteed freedom of association, though in the context of respecting public order.

Freedom of association in the Republic of Benin was also guaranteed in the Constitution of Benin that was adopted at the referendum on December 2nd, 1990 under Title II, article 25


"Of the State and of Sovereignty," Republique du Dahomey, Constitution du 15 fevrier 1959 (1959): 57-57: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.cow/zzbj0032&id=3&collection=cow&index=#

1990 Constitution of the Republic of Benin: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Benin%20Constitution%20-%20English%20Summary.pdf

Bhutan 🖉 edit

Freedom of association is asserted in the Constitution of Bhutan of 2008, enacted July 18th under Article 7(12): "A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, other than membership of associations that are harmful to the peace and unity of the country, and shall have the right not to be compelled to belong to any association."


Bhutan 2008 Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bhutan_2008

Bolivia 🖉 edit

Article 6d of the 1938 Bolivian Republican Constitution listed a number of "fundamental rights" enjoyed by all. Among these rights was the right "To meet and associate for any purpose, which is not contrary to the security of the state...."

Freedom of association of Bolivia is described in the Constitution of 2009 of the Plurinational State of Bolivia under Chapter III, Section I, Article 21 (4)


1938 Bolivian Republican Constitution: English text of the Constitution of 1938 376 (2010) Section II: Rights and Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Pagecollection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbo0010&id=2&men_tab=srchresults

“Bolivia (Plurinational Republic of) 2009.” Constitute. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bolivia_2009

Bosnia and Herzegovina 🖉 edit

Freedom of association in Bosnia and Herzegovina is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995 under Chapter II, Article 2, Section 3(i)



Botswana 🖉 edit

According to Article 13 of the 1966 Botswana Constitution: "(1) Except with his or her own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his or her right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his or her interests. (2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision— (a) that is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; (b) that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons; (c) that imposes restrictions upon public officers, employees of local government bodies, or teachers; or (d) for the registration of trade unions and associations of trade unions in a register established by or under any law, and for imposing reasonable conditions relating to the requirements for entry on such a register (including conditions as to the minimum number of persons necessary to constitute a trade union qualified for registration, or of members necessary to constitute an association of trade unions qualified for registration) and conditions whereby registration may be refused on the grounds that any other trade union already registered, or association of trade unions already registered, as the case may be, is sufficiently representative of the whole or of a substantial proportion of the interests in respect of which registration of a trade union or association of trade unions is sought, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society."


1966 Constitution of Botswana: https://botswanalaws.com/consolidated-statutes/constitution-of-botswana

Brazil 🖉 edit

According to Thiago Luís Santos Sombra the right to freedom of association in Brazil dates to 1891: "The freedom of association is, thus, an extension of private autonomy and, although it was only included in the Brazilian legal order as a constitutional guarantee in the 1891 Constitution (art. 72), it represents a social phenomenon that precedes the Declarations of Rights and the Constitutions of the 19th Century."

Brazil’s current constitution ( 1988) has exceptionally detailed freedom of association provisions. Title II-I-5 states that:

- there is total freedom of association for lawful purposes, but any paramilitary association is prohibited;

- creation of associations and, as set forth in law, of cooperatives, requires no authorization, prohibiting state interference in their operations;

- associations may be compulsorily dissolved or their activities suspended only by a judicial decision, which in the former case must be a final and unappealable decision;

- no one can be compelled to join an association or to remain in one;

- when expressly authorized, associations have standing to represent their members judicially and extrajudicially


Sombra, Thiago Luís Santos, "Representation and Deliberation: Does Every Vote Have The Same Influence In The Voting Process Of Associations?" Thurgood Marshall Law Review n. 41, issue 2, December 2015

“Federal Supreme Court Constitution - Stf.jus.br.” Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.stf.jus.br/arquivo/cms/legislacaoConstituicao/anexo/brazil_federal_constitution.pdf.

Brunei 🖉 edit

According to the US Department of State in 2021, "The law does not provide for freedom of association. The law requires formal groups, including religious, social, business, labor, and cultural organizations, to register with the Registrar of Societies and provide regular reports on membership and finances."


2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Brunei: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/brunei/

Bulgaria 🖉 edit

Article 83 of the 1879 Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria states: "Bulgaria subjects have the right of forming associations without any previous authorization, on condition that the object in view of, and the means employed by, these assoclatIons be not prejudicial to public order, religion, or good morals."

After independence, Article 83 of the revised version of the 1879 Constitution as amended to 1911 continued to guarantee freedom of association using very similar language.


1879 Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria: English translation of the Bulgarian original text of the Constitution of 1879 6 (2014) Chapter XIV: The Ordinary National Assembly: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbg0031&id=8&men_tab=srchresults

1879 Constitution as amended to 1911 : English text of the Constitution of 1879, as amended to 1911 95 (2010) Section 10: The Right of Petition: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbg0005&id=8&men_tab=srchresults

Burkina Faso 🖉 edit

According to Article 7 of the 1959 Constitution of Upper Volta, "The political parties and groups participate in the expression of suffrage. They form themselves and exercise their activities freely within respect for the democratic principles and of the sovereignty of the State."

Article 13 of the 1970 Constitution of Upper Volta stated: "Citizens shall enjoy freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, procession and demonstration in the conditions laid down by law. The exercise of these rights shall be limited only by the freedom of others, security and public order"

According to Article 21 of the 1991 Constitution of Burkina Faso, as revised in 2015, "The freedom of association is guaranteed. Every person has the right to constitute associations and to participate freely in the activities of the associations created. The functioning of the associations must conform to the laws and regulations in force. The syndical freedom is guaranteed. The unions exercise their activities without constraint and without limitation other than those specified by the law."


English Translation of the French Official Original Text of the Constitution of 1959 3-4 (2021) Title I: Of the State and of Sovereignty: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.cow/zzbf0033&id=3&collection=cow&index=

1970 Constitution of Upper Volta: "Title II: Fundamental Rights and Duties of Man and the Citizen," Constitution of Upper Volta (1970): 1006-1008 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbf0015&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

1991 Constitution of Burkina Faso 1991 as revised in 2015: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Burkina_Faso_2015

Burundi 🖉 edit

In the 1962 Constitution of Burundi, Article 18 provides for freedom of association: "All Barundi have the right of association and of assembly, except in regard to associations or assemblies which are illegal or contrary to morals."


English translation of the Constitution of 1962, "Title II: Barundi and their Rights," Constitution of the Kingdom of Burundi : 20-21: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbi0002&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

Cambodia 🖉 edit

Article 10 of the 1947 Constitution states: "All Cambodians have a right to associate freely, unless their association endangers or tends to endanger the liberties guaranteed by the present Constitution. They are also granted liberty of meeting."

According to Article 42 of the 1993 Constitution, "Khmer Citizens shall have the right to establish associations and political parties. These rights shall be determined by law. Khmer citizens may take part in mass organizations for mutual benefit to protect national achievement and social order."


1947 Cambodia Constitution: Advocatetanmoy Law Library. https://advocatetanmoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/cambodia-constitution-1947.pdf

1993 Cambodia Constitution as revised up to 1999: https://pressocm.gov.kh/en/archives/9539

Cameroon 🖉 edit

The 1961 Cameroon Constitution offered a general guarantee of those rights in the UDHR (of which one is freedom of association): "The Federal Republic of Cameroon is democratic, secular and social. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law. It affirms its adherence to the fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations." However, the 1961 Constitution did not discuss the right to freedom of association specifically.

Freedom of association is specifically guaranteed in the 1972 Cameroon Constitution: "the freedom of communication, of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association, and of trade unionism, as well as the right to strike shall be guaranteed under the conditions fixed by law"


1961 Constitution of Cameroon: https://condor.depaul.edu/mdelance/images/Pdfs/Federal%20Constitution%20of%20Cameroon.pdf

1972 Constitution of Cameroon as revised up to 2008: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cameroon_2008?lang=en

Canada 🖉 edit

Chapter 345 Section 5 of Saskatchewan’s Bill of Rights (1947) states that “every person and every class of persons shall enjoy the right to peaceable assembly with others and to form with others associations of any character under the law.”

Part 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights (1960) lists “freedom of assembly and association” as a guaranteed right. This was an ordinary act of parliament, and it has been replaced by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an amendment to the Canadian Constitution.


1947 Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act: https://www.canlii.org/en/sk/laws/astat/ss-1947-c-35/latest/ss-1947-c-35.html

1960 Canadian Bill of Rights: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-12.3/page-1.html

Cape Verde 🖉 edit

Article 51 of the 1980 Cape Verde Constitution articulated the right to freedom of association.


Cape Verde's Constitution of 1980 with Amendments through 1992: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cape_Verde_1992

Central African Republic 🖉 edit

Article 12 of the 1994 Constitution stated: "Every citizen has the right to freely constitute associations, groups, societies, and establishments of public utility under reservation of conformity to laws and regulations. The associations, groups, societies and establishments, of which the activities are contrary to public order as well and the unity and the cohesion of the Central African people, are prohibited."


Constitution of the Central African Republic, Adopted on 28 December 1994, promulgated on 14 January 1995: https://g7plus.fd.uc.pt/pdfs/CentralAfricanRepublic.pdf

Chad 🖉 edit

According to Article 5 of the 1959 Constitution of Chad, "citizens have the right to associate, to petition and to manifest freely their thoughts. The exercise of these rights has as its only limit the rights or the freedom of others and public security."

Freedom of Association continued to be protected under Article 28 of the 2018 Constitution of Chad: "The freedoms of opinion and of expression, of communication, of conscience, of religion, of the press, of association, of assembly, of movement, and of demonstration are guaranteed to all. They can only be limited in respect of the freedoms and rights of others and by the imperative to safeguard the public order and good mores. The law determines the conditions of their exercise."


1959 Chad Constitution: "Title I: Of the State, of Sovereignty and of the Public Freedoms," Constitution of the Republic of Chad 31 March 1959 (1959): 3-4 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zztd0003&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

2018 Chad Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chad_2018?lang=en

Chile 🖉 edit

Article 12.6 of the Chile Constitution of 1833, as amended to 1865 protected freedom of association.


Chile Constitution of 1833, as amended to 1865: Spanish text of the Constitution of 1833 as amended to 1865. 69 (2016) Chapter V: Public Law of Chile https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzcl0286&id=3&men_tab=srchresults#

China 🖉 edit

Chapter 2-4 of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China (1912) stated that “citizens shall have the freedom of speech, of composition, of publication, of assembly and of association.”

Under the current government of China, Article 35 of the 2018 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall enjoy freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession and demonstration.”


1912 Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China: “The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China.” The American Journal of International Law 6, no. 3 (1912): 149–54. https://archive.org/details/jstor-2212590/page/n1/mode/2up

China (People’s Republic of) 1982 (rev. 2018): https://constituteproject.org/constitution/China_2018

Colombia 🖉 edit

Article 5(8) of the 1853 Constitution of New Grenada offered a broad discussion of the freedom of assembly, including the right to unarmed assembly for the purpose: "to discuss any matters of public or private interest, and to express freely and without responsibility opinions upon the same." Article 56(11) of the 1858 Constitution of the Grenadine Federation guaranteed: "Freedom of unarmed association with such restrictions as the law may establish".

According to Article 38 of the 1991 Colombia Constitution: The right of free association for the promotion of various activities that individuals pursue in society is guaranteed."


1853 Constitution of New Grenada: English translation of the Spanish original text of the Constitution of 1853 202 (2009) Title I: The Republic of New Granada; and Granadines https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzco0029&id=2&men_tab=srchresults

1858 Constitution of the Grenadine Federation: English translation of the Spanish original text of the Constitution of 1858 240 (2009) Title V: Rights of Individuals

1991 Colombia Constitution (rev. 2015): https://constituteproject.org/constitution/Colombia_2015

Comoros 🖉 edit

Article 21 of the 2018 Comoros Constitution asserts: "The freedom of thought and of expression, of association, of intellectual, artistic or cultural creation, of protest and the other freedoms consecrated by the Constitution, the laws and by the international law received within the juridical internal order, are guaranteed."

Costa Rica 🖉 edit

According to Article 25 of the 1949 Constitution, "The inhabitants of the Republic have the right of association for lawful purposes. No one may be compelled to form a part of any association whatsoever."


Croatia 🖉 edit

Article 43 of the 1991 Croatia Constitution states: "Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of association for the purposes of protection of their interests or promotion of their social, economic, political, national, cultural and other convictions and objectives. For this purpose, everyone may freely form trade unions and other associations, join them or leave them, in conformity with law. The exercise of this right shall be restricted by the prohibition of any violent threat to the democratic constitutional order and independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Croatia."


Cuba 🖉 edit

Article 54 of the 1976 Cuba Constitution states: "The rights of assembly, demonstration and association are exercised by workers, both manual and intellectual; peasants; women; students; and other sectors of the working people, [rights] to which they have the necessary ability (los medios necesarios) to exercise. The social and mass organizations have all the facilities they need to carry out those activities in which the members have full freedom of speech and opinion based on the unlimited right of initiative and criticism."


Cyprus 🖉 edit

Article 21, Section 2 of the 1960 Cyprus Constitution states: "Every person has the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.". There are limitations to this right in Article 21, Section 3-4: "No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are absolutely necessary only in the interests of the security of the Republic or the constitutional order or the public safety or the public order or the public health or the public morals or for the protection of the rights and liberties guaranteed by this Constitution to any person, whether or not such person participates in such assembly or is a member of such association. Any association the object or activities of which are contrary to the constitutional order is prohibited."


Czech Republic 🖉 edit

Article 20, section 1 of the 1992 Czechoslovakia Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guaranteed freedom of association. Section 3 of that same article described some limitations to this freedom: "The exercise of these rights may be limited only in cases specified by law, if it involves measures that are necessary in a democratic society for the security of the state, the protection of public security and public order, the prevention of crime, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. https://www.usoud.cz/fileadmin/user_upload/ustavni_soud_www/Pravni_uprava/AJ/Listina_English_version.pdf

Democratic Republic of the Congo 🖉 edit

According to Article 28 of the 1964 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, citizens have the right to freedom of association. They also have the right to strike, and this entails the responsibility of the government to ensure that "vital public services or services of public interest" continue even during a strike. However, Article 29 forbids police officers, members of the military, and the Gendarmerie from striking and from joining trade unions or other political associations.


1964 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Constitution_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_(1964)#Title_II._Fundamental_rights

Denmark 🖉 edit

According to Article 87 of the Fundamental Law of the Kingdom of Denmark [Revising the Fundamental Law of 1849], 1866: "The citizens shall have the right, without previous authorization, to form associations for any lawful purpose. No association shall be dissolved by an order of the government. However, associations may be forbidden temporarily, but in such cases an action shall immediately be brought for the dissolution of such associations."


Fundamental Law of the Kingdom of Denmark [Revising the Fundamental Law of 1849], 1866: English translation of the Fundamental Law of 1866, revising that of 1849. 279 (1866) VIII: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzdk0009&id=13&men_tab=srchresults

Djibouti 🖉 edit

Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Djibouti guarantees both freedom of association and the right to strike.


1992 Constitution of the Republic of Djibouti: "Title I: Of the State and Of Sovereignty," Constitution of the Republic of Djibouti, 15 September 1992 : 3-4 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzdj0005&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

Dominica 🖉 edit

Article 11 of the 1978 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica guarantees freedom of association, including trade union membership.


1978 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica: "Chapter I: Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms," Commonwealth of Dominica Constitution Order, 1978 (1978): 2919-2934: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzdm0004&id=17&men_tab=srchresults

Dominican Republic 🖉 edit

Article 30 of the 1844 Constitution of the Dominican Republic guarantees freedom of association.


1844 Constitution of the Dominican Republic: Spanish orignal text of the Constitution of 1844 57 (2012) Chapter I: Of Sovereignty https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzdo0015&id=5&men_tab=srchresults

East Timor 🖉 edit

The first assertion of freedom of association in East Timor comes in its Constitution, ratified on May 20, 2002. The right is found in Part II, Title II, Section 43 (“Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste”, 2002). Section 43 states: "1. Everyone is guaranteed freedom of association provided that the association is not intended to promote violence and is in accordance with the law. 2. No one shall be compelled to join an association or to remain in it against his or her will. 3. The establishment of armed, military or paramilitary associations, including organisations of a racist or xenophobic nature or that promote terrorism, shall be prohibited."

Also relevant to freedom of association is the defense of freedom of assembly in Section 42 of the 2002 East Timor Constitution:

"1. Everyone is guaranteed the freedom to assemble peacefully and unarmed, without a need for prior authorisation. 2. Everyone is recognised the right to demonstrate in accordance with the law."


2002. Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. http://timor-leste.gov.tl/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Constitution_RDTL_ENG.pdf.

Ecuador 🖉 edit

Elements of freedom of association in Ecuador can be found in the Constitution of 1869, ratified on August 11. The right comes in Title XI, Article 109: "Equatorians have the right to assemble without arms, provided they respect religon, morality, and public order."

Article 24 of the 1897 Constitution of Ecuador was more explicit about freedom of association: "There shall be liberty of meeting and association, without arms, for purposes not prohibited by the laws."

The current Constitution, ratified in 2008, asserts the right in Article 66 (“Ecuador 2008 (rev. 2021) Constitution”, 2021).


1869 Constitution of Ecuador: English translation of the original Constitution of 1869 1244 (2010) Title XI: Of Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzec0003&id=16&men_tab=srchresults

1897 Constitution of Ecuador: English translation of the original Constitution of 1897 1098 (2010) Chapter IV: Of Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzec0008&id=4&men_tab=srchresults

2021. “Ecuador 2008 (Rev. 2021) Constitution.” 2021. ConstitutionNet. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Ecuador_2021?lang=en.

Egypt 🖉 edit

The first known assertion of the right to association in Egypt was in the Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923, which established a Constitutional system of government in monarchical Egypt. The right is established in Part II, Article 21 (“Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923”, 1923).


1923. Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923. https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/1923_-_egyptian_constitution_english_1.pdf. ... further results

Is the identification of this right associated with a particular era in history, political regime, or political leader? 🖉 edit

This right became an element of political discourse in the late Enlightenment, especially in the mid and late 1800s , as seen in the works of authors such as John Stuart Mill and Leo XIII.


Catholic Church. Pope (1878-1903 : Leo XIII). Rerum Novarum : Enciclica Di Leone XIII Sulla Questione Operaia. Lugano :Edizione a cura dell'Organizzazione cristano-sociale del canton Ticino per la celebrazione del LXX, 1961.

Mill, J. S. (1975) Three essays : On liberty, Representative government, The subjection of women. London: Oxford University Press.

Is there another noteworthy written source from the past that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

Pope Leo XIII forcefully argued for free association in Section 51 of Rerum novarum ( 1891) , an extremely influential text in Catholic thought.

"Private societies, then, although they exist within the body politic, and are severally part of the commonwealth, cannot nevertheless be absolutely, and as such, prohibited by public authority. For, to enter into a "society" of this kind is the natural right of man; and the State has for its office to protect natural rights, not to destroy them."


Catholic Church. Pope (1878-1903 : Leo XIII). Rerum Novarum : Enciclica Di Leone XIII Sulla Questione Operaia. Lugano :Edizione a cura dell'Organizzazione cristano-sociale del canton Ticino per la celebrazione del LXX, 1961.

What specific events or ideas contributed to its identification as a fundamental right? 🖉 edit

An array of historical events have contributed to the identification of the right to freedom of association as a fundamental right ranging from the red scare during the Cold war, guilt by association laws, and the dismantling of legislation permitting the existence of racial segregation. A specific event that contributed to the identification of freedom of association as a fundamental right was the emergence of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; this enactment historically marked the end of segregation and legally prohibited the discrimination of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or religious affiliation. After this act was enacted into law, people living in the American South were free to associate with anybody regardless of their racial or ethnic identity. Although the Civil Rights act was an example of legal identification of the freedom of association as a fundamental right, this was not the first time in history that association was debated over whether or not it constituted a right. The introduction of the acknowledgment of the right to freedom of association begins with the existence of guilt by association laws, as well as labor union provisions. These legal prohibitions restricting an individual from freely exercising their right to association with people of their choosing point to the significance of the legal precedent permitting the right to freedom of association to remain protected under law.

An example of an event that led to the classification of the right to freedom of association as impenetrable liberty under the law is drawn from a ruling that was decided in the early 20th century but drew upon a case from the 1890s to point out the precedent that the right to freedom of association had under Missouri state law. “The distinction [of the right to freely associate] was of some significance in the criminal syndicalism cases of the early twentieth century precisely because the Missouri Supreme Court had three decades earlier (in 1896) invalidated a St. Louis vagrancy ordinance that sought to forbid residents from “knowingly...associat-[ing] with persons having the reputation of being thieves, burglars, pickpockets, pigeon droppers, bawds, prostitutes or lewd women or gamblers, or any other person, for the purpose or with the intent to agree, conspire, combine or confederate, first, to commit any offense, or, second, to cheat or defraud any person of any money or property.” It was here, in a context far removed from public meetings and speeches, that lawyers and judges first considered a right to freedom of association.” (Whittington, 2008, pg. 81). This specific analysis of the documented Missouri Supreme Court invalidation placed upon the St. Louis' vagrancy ordinance in 1896 underlined an imperative element to the right to freely associate; a state cannot legally abridge someone from willingly associating with people that are assumed to have a negative reputation or past history within the legal system. This legal precedent solidified the right to freedom of association as a federally protected right; prohibition of the freedom to exercise an individual’s right to freedom of association would result in federal action against a state that chose to interfere.

Although the freedom to associate with people freely can include restrictions placed on an individual, there are indeed group prohibitions under the right to freedom of association. “Notions of political discrimination in the public workplace derived initially from the Cold War era in a series of cases dealing with loyalty oaths. Loyalty oath cases derived from the fear of the spread of Communism after the Russian Revolution in 1917. During this time and thereafter, many laws were passed in the United States which sought to limit the ability of Communists or Communist sympathizers from gaining government employment and undermining the government. In particular, numerous federal and state laws were passed prohibiting the holding of public employment by those who refused to swear that they had not had any connection with the Communist Party.” (Secunda, 2008, pg. 351). When the US government chose to reinforce fierce associative laws prohibiting the free exercise of choice to associate in groups with people that held different political ideological beliefs, the federal right to freedom of association was subjunctively infringed upon. During a volatile time for the US, while fighting against communist encroachment, the right to freedom of association was more or less viewed as something that could be used as a tool or weapon. By prohibiting the association of people in the US and Communists or supporters of the communist party, the US government was sending a clear message to those who aligned themselves with communism, that they would not be welcome to share their beliefs with other people through threats of blackballing or guilt by association.

An example of ideological group association that was upheld as a right to the freedom of association occurred in 1984, in of Roberts v. US Jaycees case. “Moreover, group expression is deemed essential in a democratic society to preserve political and cultural diversity and to protect unpopular views from majoritarian control.” (pg. Jameson, 1985, 1065). This idea of group expression extends beyond intimate associations, in the Supreme Court case Roberts v. United States Jaycees, the national organization of US Jaycees limited their full membership status to men aged eighteen to thirty-five; and subsequently prohibited women and older men in the organization from being eligible for full-time memberships. Justice William J. Brennan ultimately ruled that the inclusion of women and older men in ‘associate’ memberships constituted an acknowledgment of membership status. Thus the Jaycees had no legal right to exclude them from associating with the organization as full-time members. This ultimately affirmed the state of New Jersey’s court decision to institute an antidiscrimination policy within the bylaws of the US Jaycees membership requirements. “In Roberts v. United States Jaycees, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the state’s interest in eliminating gender-based discrimination justified the impact that requiring the Jaycees to admit women may have on the male members’ freedom of association.” (Jameson, 1985, pg. 1058). Although the U.S. Jaycees were a private organization, the prior inclusion of women and older men as part-time members led the court to rule in favor of the NJ state decision, the Jaycees could not legally restrict women from associating themselves as full-time members within the Jaycees organization.

A situation that brought to light forceful infringements on the right to freedom of association occurred in the 2000s, following the exposure that the Boy Scouts of America excluded a scoutmaster from being a part of the organization after learning of his sexual orientation. “Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 2000, US Supreme Court struck down this application of New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law on the ground that forcing the Scouts to allow homosexuals to be members and scoutmasters would alter the Scouts’ “message” and thus violate their First Amendment right of freedom of expressive association.” (Alexander, 2008, pg. 6). Due to the nature of the scout’s organizational message, specifically mentioning their goal to “instill clean and straight moral values”, the Supreme court ruled in favor of the organization’s right to freely associate with those that aligned with their moral values. This particular ruling signifies the dichotomy within the right to freedom of association; a private organization can restrict members from joining if their personal associations go against their organization’s message and central core tenets. The difference between this case and that of the US Jaycees case was rooted in how the organization viewed members. Boy Scouts of America subjectively denied homosexuals entry from their scout memberships and the entire program, whereas Jaycees had already included women and older men in their associative memberships within the organization. Thus, the supreme court aligned its rulings with factual precedent; if a state interfered with an organization's right to associate with those who they chose, then the federal government would step in and uphold the right to freedom of association as long as the provisions of membership were not violated. Therefore, it did not violate the Jaycees' right to freedom of association by allowing women and older men to move from part-time members to full-time. However, with BSOA, their organization’s values and the core central message would have been infringed upon if the court demanded that the Boy Scouts accept homosexuals as scout leaders and members.

A circumstance in history where the right to the freedom of political association was upheld by the Supreme Court followed the exercise of discriminatory voting blocs by the Democratic party in Texas. “In Terry [Terry v. Adams, 1953], the Court prohibited a county in Texas from giving effect to what amounted to (successful) racial bloc voting. Democrats far outnumbered Republicans in the county, and thus the Democratic primary winners always prevailed in the general elections for county offices. Further, white Democrats appreciably outnumbered black Democrats within the county’s Democratic Party. Although the Court in one of the earlier White Primary cases had forced the Democratic Party in Texas not to discriminate against black voters in its primaries —which, after all, were run by the state itself out of tax revenues—and the Democratic primary in this county was indeed open to black voters, the white Democrats organized themselves into the Jaybird Club and held their own, privately supported “pre-primary primary.” (Alexander, 2008, pg. 5). The right to freedom of association does not necessarily extend to the right to freely exclude an entire group of people from a public political organization through the use of racial bloc voting. The Democratic party was prohibiting the right to freedom of association by not allowing Black voters to have a choice of whether or not they wanted to associate themselves with the candidate that the Jaybirds had elected.

Historical events that contributed to a widespread belief in the importance of the right to freedom of association can be shown from the decision in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia; decided in 1967, this case determined that Southern states were legally required to allow interracial marriages to be permitted under law. The Loving decision brought forth a significant argument in favor of the right to freedom of association, a state could not legally abridge the right to freely associate with people in intimate capacities.

The right to freedom of group expression underlines the exceptions within precedent regarding the exercise of group political identities or participation with associative organizations. “Specifically, these cases dealt with the so-called "spoils system," or political patronage, which rewards public employment based on loyalty to a given political party. In Elrod v. Burns, for example, the plurality decision written by Justice [William] Brennan found that Illinois public employees, who were non-confidential, non-policymaking employees, could not be fired merely because of their partisan political affiliation." (Secunda, 2008, 352). The Burns decision highlights an interesting exception to the right to freedom of association, although the spoils system was legal under the Constitution, the use of political patronage against state employees for their political identity association was a direct infringement upon an individual’s exercise of the right to freely associate. In this particular IL public school, employees found themselves penalized for choosing to associate themselves with a particular political party or organization based on the principle that the state of IL deemed it appropriate to fire employees based on their political associations.

Another example of protecting the right to freely associate intimately with another person is underlined by the decision in Lawrence v. Texas. In 2003, the Supreme court struck down a TX sodomy law as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In an attempt to dictate the specific terms under the right to freedom of association, TX had formed a sodomy law prohibiting the free exercise of intimate forms of association. “‘Bowers had held that there was no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy.' In overturning Bowers, Lawrence's central holding was that the Texas sodomy statute at issue furthered no legitimate state interest which could justify the intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. The most important constitutional innovation wrought by this holding is the apparent attachment of some form of heightened scrutiny to the right to be free from decisional interference in matters of an intimate nature. Indeed, implicit in this holding is the need to balance individual privacy interests against legitimate and substantial state interests.” (Secunda, 2008, pg. 357). The significance of an intrusion on private associations in regards to exercising the freedom of association as a fundamental right divides the debate in half, a state government cannot abridge the freedom of association when deciding who someone can intimately be associated with under federal law. A legitimate state interest would need to be produced in order for an intimate association to be prohibited under TX state legislation.


Alexander, Larry. "What is Freedom of Association, and what is its denial?." Social Philosophy and Policy 25, no. 2 (2008): 1-21.

Epstein, Richard A. "Public Accommodations Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Why Freedom of Association Counts as a Human Right." Stanford Law Review 66 (2014): 1241.

Inazu, John D. "The Unsettling “Well-Settled” Law of Freedom of Association”, 2010.

Jameson, Ann H. "Roberts v. United States Jaycees: Discriminatory Membership Policy of a National Organization Held Not Protected by First Amendment Freedom of Association." Catholic University Law Review 34, no. 4 (1985): 1055-1086.

Secunda, Paul M. "Reflections on the Technicolor Right to Association in American Labor and Employment Law." Kentucky Law Journal 96, no. 3 (2008).

Whittington, Keith E. 2008. “INDUSTRIAL SABOTEURS, REPUTED THIEVES, COMMUNISTS, AND THE FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION.” Social Philosophy and Policy 25 (2). Cambridge University Press: 76–91.

When was it generally accepted as a fundamental, legally-protectable right? 🖉 edit

The Freedom of Association only became formally recognized in the US in 1958 with the landmark NAACP v Alabama SCOTUS decision (“NAACP v. ALABAMA, 377 U.S. 288” 1964). Just after the Brown v Board of Education ruling the NAACP became incredibly active in Alabama. When the state tried to demand a list of the organization's members, the NAACP refused. Freedom of Association can be found in the majority opinion where Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote “It is beyond debate that 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, which embraces freedom of speech.” (“NAACP v. ALABAMA, 377 U.S. 288” 1964). Since the NAACP was allowed to organize their political group as an association and were afforded the privacy and rights they argued in the case. Prior to this, this right can be found in several U.S. cases leading up to the 1958 opinion. The Supreme Court did not always recognize Freedom of Association however. In 1886, a case centered on the forming of state militias, the Court declared that the government had the ability to regulate and prohibit associations “have the power to regulate or prohibit associations and meetings of the people, except in the case of peaceable assemblies.” (Cornell Legal Information Institute). The right to protest is clearly laid out here, while the Freedom of Association is denied. Later on, in a 1945 case, the Court applied the freedom of assembly stating, “[i]t was not by accident or coincidence that the rights to freedom in speech and press were coupled in a single guarantee with the rights of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for redress of grievances. All these, though not identical, are inseparable.” This allowed unions to discuss benefits and consequences of organizing (“Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516 (1945)”). Throughout the 1950s, the Court started to refer to the freedom of association as a separate but related freedom, close to speech and assembly, found in the First Amendment. By 1958, the Court deemed it "beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of" civil liberties like the freedom of speech. (Cornell Legal Information Institute). Internationally, the earliest autonomous associations were founded by religion. The Roman Catholic Church was the most important institution in medieval Western Europe. It kept its own organization and self-government, even in the several states where it served as the recognized religion (“Freedom of Association: History”). They encouraged trade associations, guilds for artisans, and other associations, frequently with the consent of the nation's ruler, who was typically a monarch (“Freedom of Association: History”). Outside of the US, one of the first instances of the debate regarding Freedom of Association in terms of organized labor was in Great Britain. At the end of the 18th century, the Comination Acts suppressed attempts to organize unions (“Freedom of Association: History” n.d.). This caused radical reformers to protest, driving workers to violence. Eventually, the government backed the repeal of the Acts in 1824. This repeal served as Britain’s first major increase in the ability to organize and unionize. Despite some infringements on labor rights in the 1980s and 1990s, the Trade Union Congress is still a strong force in the United Kingdom’s politics and economy (“Freedom of Association: History”). This was an early implication through labor rights that Freedom of Association existed. In order to address bad working conditions and social unrest, the ILO (International Labor Organization) devised a tripartite organization that included representatives from industry, labor, and government (“Freedom of Association: History”). The International Labor Organization (ILO) approved Convention No. 87 on freedom of association in 1948, and Convention No. 98 on the right to collectively bargain in 1949. As of 2013, 152 countries had ratified Convention No. 87, and 163 had ratified Convention No. 98, demonstrating how highly accepted these treaties are around the world (“Freedom of Association: History”). There are eight fundamental ILO conventions, some of which forbid child labor, forced labor, and employment discrimination. Only 14 of the 189 international standards treaties have been ratified by the US Senate, and only two of the eight core agreements (on forced labor in 1991 and child labor in 1999) have been ratified (“Freedom of Association: History”). On the other hand, nations in the former Soviet Union approved ILO treaties without ever putting them into use. Communist nations argued that since the Communist Party and its affiliated labor organizations represented workers' interests, there was no need for free trade unions, which are highly specific to certain trades (“Overview of Freedom of Association”). Thus, Soviet trade unions were the antithesis of free association and an "anti-trade union" paradigm. The official unions didn't shield workers from exploitation; instead, they made them labor longer and harder to satisfy government demands (Constitution Annotated). In democratic nations, private companies occasionally adopted a similar strategy known as "company unionism," but the Soviet Union's methods were systematic in nature and a crucial component of the totalitarian regime. The Soviet Union imposed its model on its Eastern European satellite governments and exported it to other communist nations (Constitution Annotated). The largest country still using a Communist Party-controlled official union structure is the People's Republic of China (Constitution Annotated). One of the ILO's greatest historical contributions was the inspiration and assistance it provided to Poland's Solidarity movement, which saw millions of workers rise up starting in 1980 and demand the implementation of Conventions 87 and 98 as well as the establishment of the right to form free unions (International Labor Organization 1982). As a result of the movement's success—10 million workers joined within a month of Solidarity's founding—a free trade union was officially recognized for the first time in a Communist nation. The Polish Solidarity Revolution had a tremendous impact on the entire Soviet bloc (International Labor Organization 1982). Solidarity's success was a rejection of the previous regimes. After seven years of nonviolent protest, Polish workers mounted a nationwide strike that compelled the government to re-legalize Solidarity and concede to partially free elections in June 1989, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the government (International Labor Organization 1982). Soon after, the Soviet Union as a whole disintegrated, paving the way for the rise of several new republics. Small clandestine publications that explained to employees their rights under ILO treaties served as the foundation for the entire operation (International Labor Organization 1982).


Constitution Annotated. “Overview of Freedom of Association.” Library of Congress. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/essay/amdt1-8-1/ALDE_00013139/.

Cornell Legal Information Institute.“Overview of Freedom of Association.” LII / Legal Information Institute. Accessed September 11, 2023a. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-1/overview-of-freedom-of-association.

“PRESSER v. STATE OF ILLINOIS.” LII / Legal Information Institute. Accessed September 11, 2023b. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/116/252.

“Freedom of Association: History.” Democracy Web. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://democracyweb.org/freedom-of-association-history.

International Labor Organization. 1982. “Interim Report - Report No 217, June 1982.” June 1982. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:50002:0::NO:50002:P50002_COMPLAINT_TEXT_ID:2900704.

“NAACP v. ALABAMA, 377 U.S. 288 (1964).” FindLaw. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/court/us-supreme-court/377/288.html.

“Overview of Freedom of Association.” Library of Congress. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/essay/amdt1-8-1/ALDE_00013139/.

“Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516 (1945).” Justia Law. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/323/516/.