In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
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First Amendment Rights: Good News from the IRS on Donor Privacy

In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and First Amendment expression, there’s actually good news to report.

In fact, that positive development comes from none other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which few people typically consider a font of good news.

Specifically, the IRS just announced a proposed rule to stop requiring nonprofit organizations to file what’s known as a Form 990 Schedule B, which exposes sensitive donor information not only to the federal government and potential rogues like former IRS official Lois Lerner, but also people who seek to access and use that information to target people on the basis of political belief.

As we at CFIF have long asserted, this welcome move will help protect the…[more]

September 12, 2019 • 11:07 am

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Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
As Justice Kennedy Retires, Supreme Court Finally Ends Compulsory Public-Union Dues Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 28 2018
[T]he majority ruled that states and public-sector unions may no longer forcibly extract payment from unwilling employees. That violates the First Amendment, as the freedoms of association and speech mean that people must freely choose to support the behavior in which unions engage.

Groucho Marx famously observed, "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." 

For decades, millions of American public-sector workers who were forced to join unions have pleaded, "I don't want to belong to any club that would force me to become a member." 

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court finally granted relief to those millions of people.  No longer must they pay involuntary membership dues to powerful unions that serve as conduits for political contributions to leftist candidates and social causes. 

And with the Justice Anthony Kennedy's subsequent retirement announcement, the narrow 5-4 decision highlights once again the critical importance of securing conservative judges and justices in our precariously balanced Supreme Court and throughout the rest of the judicial branch. 

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Supreme Court addressed a lawsuit filed by Illinois state employee Mark Janus, who declined to join a union whose political activities and collective bargaining positions he opposed.  Under Illinois law, however, non-members were forced to pay what are known as "agency fees" to unions to cover whatever they decree germane to collective bargaining activities.  In Mr. Janus's case, that agency fee unsurprisingly amounted to approximately 80% of full union dues. 

Unfortunately, the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that hasn't aged well in the ensuing four decades supported the union's position.  Consequently, the federal District Court and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Mr. Janus's lawsuit. 

In a welcome decision and astonishingly blunt terms, however, a majority overruled Abood and restored the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association to millions of public sector workers: 

The State's extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public sector employees violates the First Amendment.  Abood erred in concluding otherwise, and stare decisis cannot support it.  Abood is therefore overruled.  Abood's holding is inconsistent with standard First Amendment principles.  Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable raises serious First Amendment concerns.  That includes compelling a person to subsidize the speech of other private speakers. 

And in withering language, the majority eviscerated not only the illogic of Abood, but also the justifications offered for compulsory union membership: 

The Union claims that Abood is supported by the First Amendment's original meaning.  But neither founding-era evidence nor dictum supports the view that the First Amendment was originally understood to allow States to force public employees to subsidize a private third party.  If anything, the opposite is true...  Abood was poorly reasoned, and those arguing for retaining it have recast its reasoning, which further undermines its stare decisis effect...  Developments since Abood, both factual and legal, have "eroded" the decision's "underpinnings" and left it an outlier among the Court's First Amendment cases.  Abood relied on an assumption that "the principle of exclusive representation in the public sector is dependent on a union or agency shop," but experience has shown otherwise.  It was also decided when public-sector unionism was a relatively new phenomenon.  Today, however, public-sector union membership has surpassed that in the private sector, and that ascendency corresponds with a parallel increase in public spending.  Abood is also an anomaly in the Court's First Amendment jurisprudence, where exacting scrutiny, if not a more demanding standard, generally applies.  Overruling Abood will also end the oddity of allowing public employers to compel union support (which is not supported by any tradition) but not to compel party support. 

Accordingly, the majority ruled that states and public-sector unions may no longer forcibly extract payment from unwilling employees.  That violates the First Amendment, as the freedoms of association and speech mean that people must freely choose to support the behavior in which unions engage. 

In an age in which unions donate upwards of 90% of their political dollars toward leftist candidates and causes, the Supreme Court's decision will in turn prove dramatically consequential, as it already has in states like Wisconsin that instituted reform and witnessed immediate declines in union membership. 

As pivotal swing Justice Kennedy retires, it's important to remember that four justices remained willing to allow forcible union dues payment to perpetuate their political power. 

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On September 17 of which one of the following years was the U.S. Constitution sent to Congress for ratification by the states?
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