17. What is the “Freedom of Assembly”?
The freedom of assembly, commonly known as the “freedom of association”, protects individuals’ rights to assemble in groups for the purpose of expressing common beliefs or pursuing common interests. The right of assembly includes the right to physically assemble and the right to be a member of an organization. The right of physical assembly is commonly restricted by “time, place, and manner” restrictions. These restrictions must meet the highest level of scrutiny when determining whether such restrictions are constitutional.
• Example: The government commonly requires permits or licensing for assembly. This is a limited regulation of the time, place, and manner of assembly. The application process cannot totally close off the assembly. But, it may require that the participants adhere to limited restrictions.
• Discussion: Do you feel that common time, place, and manner restrictions on the freedom of assembly are overly burdensome? Or do you feel that this government authority is sufficiently extensive? Can you think of historical acts of assembly that were challenged based upon time, place, and manner or permit restrictions?
• Practice Question: Beverly is interested in having a public rally protesting police brutality in the city. Public gatherings are generally limited to Monday through Saturday, but Beverly wants to hold the rally on Sunday. The city manager that approves requests for permits is adamantly against Beverly’s cause. He refuses Beverly a permit based upon the request for a Sunday date. Is there any issue with this situation?