Brief Fact Summary. An Arizona Act requiring all public employees to take an oath to support the state and federal Constitutions was held by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) to be unconstitutional.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A law which restricts the type of membership that does not have “specific intent” to further the illegal aims of the organization infringes unnecessarily on protected freedoms. Such a law rests on the doctrine of “guilty by association” and such a law is unconstitutional.
Issue. Whether the Arizona Act requiring all public employees take an oath to support the state and federal Constitutions is constitutional?
Held. No. Judgment of the lower court reversed. This oath and statutory gloss suffers from constitutional infirmity. The oath subjects those who take it to criminal prosecution and discharge. Nothing in the oath, statutory gloss, or construction of the oath purports to exclude association by one who does not subscribe to the organization’s unlawful ends. Thus, the hazard of being prosecuted for knowing, but guiltless behavior is a reality. A law which applies to membership without the “specific intent” to further the illegal aims of the organization, as here, infringes unnecessarily on protected freedoms. Therefore, the Arizona Act requiring all public employees take an oath to support the state and federal Constitutions is not constitutional.
Criminal intent must be judged strictissimi juris, for otherwise there is a danger that one in sympathy with the legitimate aims of such an organization, but not specifically intending to accomplish them by resort to violence, might be punished for his adherence to lawful and constitutionally protected purposes, because of other and unprotected purposes which he does not necessarily share.View Full Point of Law