American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382; 70 S. Ct. 674; 94 L. Ed. 925 (1950)

American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382; 70 S. Ct. 674; 94 L. Ed. 925 (1950)

Facts—Section 9 (h) of the Taft-Hartley Act, the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, provides that the National Labor Relations Board shall not investigate any question unless all officers of a labor organization concerned in the dispute sign an affidavit that they are not members of the Communist Party and that they do not advocate overthrowing the U.S. government by force or by illegal means.

Question—Is Section 9 (h) of the Taft-Hartley Act contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution?


ReasonsC.J. Vinson (5–1). The freedoms of speech, press, or assembly, established in the First Amendment, depend on the power of constitutional government to survive. If it is to survive it must have power to protect itself against unlawful conduct. Thus freedom of speech does not comprehend the right to speak on any subject at any time. Also, this is not merely a matter of speech. The government’s interest “is in protecting the free flow of commerce from what Congress considers to be substantial evils of conduct that are not the products of speech at all. Section 9 (h) . . . regulates harmful conduct which Congress has determined is carried on by persons who may be identified by their political affiliations and beliefs. Section 9 (h) is designed to protect the public not against what Communists and others identified therein advocate or believe but against what Congress has concluded they have done and are likely to do again.” Because the law was intended to prevent future action rather than to punish past action, it did not violate the ex post facto provision.

In dissent, J. Black argued that the law in question was an unconstitutional attempt to interfere with legitimate rights of belief and association.

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