WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Stockman (R-Texas 36) encouraged his Republican and Democrat colleagues to join him in signing a letter to President Barack Obama marking the 55th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic NAACP v. Alabama ruling, and condemning any unlawful harassment of political groups because of the content of their political speech.
The letter also asks Obama to prosecute any Executive Branch officials engaging in any attempt to unlawfully harass a political group or demand a list of its members.
“On June 30, 1958 the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear the Executive Branch has no lawful authority to target political groups based simply on the content of their speech. Not only is it unconstitutional, it is a frontal assault on the very founding principles of this Republic,” said Stockman. “History has a way of repeating itself and I urge Republicans, Democrats and President Obama to stand with me in defense of those rights protected from government officials by the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.”
Members of Congress have until June 29 to sign on to the letter, which will be sent to the White House on June 30. The text of the letter to members of Congress, and the letter to Obama, follow.
June 30th of this year marks the 55th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in NAACP v. Alabama. In that ruling the Court struck down an attempt by state Executive Branch employees to harass a political group because they disagreed with the content of its speech.
Please join me in sending a letter to President Obama asking him to join us in marking this historic anniversary, as well as in condemning any similar unconstitutional attempt by the Executive to use its authority to target political groups for harassment.
To sign on to this letter, or should you have any questions, please contact Senior Communications Adviser Donny Ferguson at Donny@mail.house.gov. The text of the letter follows.
Member of Congress
June 30, 2013
Fifty-five years ago today the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, NAACP v. Alabama, upholding Americans’ rights of free speech and free association.
As you recall, Alabama sought to enjoin the state’s NAACP from operating by declaring it in violation of the state’s corporate laws. The state then issued an order for a list of the group’s members.
Clearly, the state’s Executive branch was harassing a group because they disagreed with its political views.
The case was eventually brought to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled Alabama violated the NAACP’s rights of free speech and free association.
Justice John Marshall Harlan II, writing for the majority, declared that without an “overriding valid interest” any attempt by government officials to discourage groups from engaging in speech or political activity is unconstitutional. According to the Court, the “advancement of beliefs and ideas” is protected from baseless harassment by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Executive Branch officials had no lawful authority to target the organization, or to demand it reveal its finances or membership.
We are sure you agree any action by a government employee to harass political groups, simply because they disagree with their speech, constitutes deprivation “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” as stated in the Fourteenth Amendment.
We encourage you to join us in honoring that historic fight to protect the freedoms of speech and association. We hope you will demonstrate your commitment to a federal government that upholds those rights protected from government by the First and Fourteenth amendments.
History has a way of repeating itself. In light of the Court’s NAACP v. Alabama ruling we also hope you will hold responsible any federal official or employee who attempts to chill the speech simply because of its content — including cooperation with any investigation or prosecution of such unconstitutional actions.
Member of Congress