MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
Each of the petitioners has been convicted of violating an identical ordinance of an Arkansas municipality by refusing a demand to furnish city officials with a list of the names of the members of a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The question for decision is whether these convictions can stand under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Municipalities in Arkansas are authorized by the State to levy a license tax on any person, firm, individual, or corporation engaging in any "trade, business, profession, vocation or calling" within their corporate limits.
In 1957 the two cities added identical amendments to their occupation license tax ordinances. These amendments require that any organization operating within the municipality in question must supply to the City Clerk,
January 1, 1957 to December 4, 1957. Total receipts from membership and contributors $252.00. Total expenditures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $183.60 (to National Office) Secretarial help. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.00 Stationery, stamps, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.00 ________ Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $191.60 On Hand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60.40
A substantially identical written statement was submitted on behalf of the Little Rock branch of the Association to the Clerk of that city.
After refusing upon further demand to submit the names of the members of her organization,
On appeal the cases were consolidated in the Supreme Court of Arkansas, and, with two justices dissenting, the convictions were upheld. 229 Ark. 819, 319 S.W.2d 37. The court concluded that compulsory disclosure of the membership lists under the circumstances was "not an unconstitutional invasion of the freedoms guaranteed. . ." but "a mere incident to a permissible legal result."
Like freedom of speech and a free press, the right of peaceable assembly was considered by the Framers of our Constitution to lie at the foundation of a government
Freedoms such as these are protected not only against heavy-handed frontal attack, but also from being stifled by more subtle governmental interference. Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233; Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105; American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 402; N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, supra; Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147. "It is hardly a novel perception that compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute [an] effective . . . restraint on freedom of association. . . . This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations.. . . Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs." N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U. S., at 462.
On this record it sufficiently appears that compulsory disclosure of the membership lists of the local branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would work a significant interference with the freedom of association of their members.
Decision in this case must finally turn, therefore, on whether the cities as instrumentalities of the State have demonstrated so cogent an interest in obtaining and making public the membership lists of these organizations as to justify the substantial abridgment of associational freedom which such disclosures will effect. Where there is a significant encroachment upon personal liberty, the State may prevail only upon showing a subordinating interest which is compelling. N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449. See also Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11; Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147; Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569, 574; Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105; Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158; Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77.
It cannot be questioned that the governmental purpose upon which the municipalities rely is a fundamental one. No power is more basic to the ultimate purpose and function of government than is the power to tax. See James v. Dravo Contracting Co., 302 U.S. 134, 150. Nor can it be doubted that the proper and efficient exercise of this
It was as an adjunct of their power to impose occupational license taxes that the cities enacted the legislation here in question.
In this record we can find no relevant correlation between the power of the municipalities to impose occupational license taxes and the compulsory disclosure and publication of the membership lists of the local branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The occupational license tax ordinances of the municipalities are squarely aimed at reaching all the commercial, professional, and business occupations within the communities. The taxes are not, and as a matter of state law cannot be, based on earnings or income, but upon the nature of the occupation or enterprise conducted.
Inquiry of organizations within the communities as to the purpose and nature of their activities would thus appear to be entirely relevant to enforcement of the ordinances. Such an inquiry was addressed to these organizations and was answered as follows:
The municipalities have not suggested that an activity so described, even if conducted for profit, would fall within any of the occupational classifications for which a license is required or a tax payable. On oral argument counsel for the City of Little Rock was unable to relate any activity of these organizations to which a license tax might attach.
In sum, there is a complete failure in this record to show (1) that the organizations were engaged in any occupation for which a license would be required, even if the occupation were conducted for a profit; (2) that the cities have ever asserted a claim against the organizations for payment of an occupational license tax; (3) that the organizations have ever asserted exemption from a tax imposed by the municipalities, either because of their alleged nonprofit character or for any other reason.
We conclude that the municipalities have failed to demonstrate a controlling justification for the deterrence of free association which compulsory disclosure of the membership lists would cause. The petitioners cannot be punished for refusing to produce information which the municipalities could not constitutionally require. The judgments cannot stand.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring.
We concur in the judgment and substantially with the opinion because we think the facts show that the ordinances as here applied violate freedom of speech and
Moreover, we believe, as we indicated in United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41, 48, at 56 (concurring opinion), that First Amendment rights are beyond abridgment either by legislation that directly restrains their exercise or by suppression or impairment through harassment, humiliation, or exposure by government. One of those rights, freedom of assembly, includes of course freedom of association; and it is entitled to no less protection than any other First Amendment right as N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, at 460, and De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, at 363, hold. These are principles applicable to all people under our Constitution irrespective of their race, color, politics, or religion. That is, for us, the essence of the present opinion of the Court.
"Whereas, it has been found and determined that certain organizations within the City . . . have been claiming immunity from the terms of [the ordinance], governing the payment of occupation licenses levied for the privilege of doing business within the city, upon the premise that such organizations are benevolent, charitable, mutual benefit, fraternal or non-profit, and
"Whereas, many such organizations claiming the occupation license exemption are mere subterfuges for businesses being operated for profit which are subject to the occupation license ordinance;
"Now, Therefore, Be It Ordained by the City Council of the City . . . .
"Section 1. The word `organization' as used herein means any group of individuals, whether incorporated or unincorporated.
"Section 2. Any organization operating or functioning within the City . . . including but not limited to civic, fraternal, political, mutual benefit, legal, medical, trade, or other organization, upon the request of the Mayor, Alderman, Member of the Board of Directors, City Clerk, City Collector, or City Attorney, shall list with the City Clerk the following information within 15 days after such request is submitted:
"A. The official name of the organization.
"B. The office, place of business, headquarters or usual meeting place of such organization.
"C. The officers, agents, servants, employees or representatives of such organization, and the salaries paid to them.
"D. The purpose or purposes of such organization.
"E. A financial statement of such organization, including dues, fees, assessments and/or contributions paid, by whom paid, and the date thereof, together with the statement reflecting the disposition of such sums, to whom and when paid, together with the total net income of such organization.
"F. An affidavit by the president or other officiating officer of the organization stating whether the organization is subordinate to a parent organization, and if so, the name of the parent organization.
"Section 3. This ordinance shall be cumulative to other ordinances heretofore passed by the City with reference to occupation licenses and the collection thereof.
"Section 4. All information obtained pursuant to this ordinance shall be deemed public and subject to the inspection of any interested party at all reasonable business hours.
"Section 5. Any section or part of this ordinance declared to be unconstitutional or void shall not affect the remaining sections of the ordinance, and to this end the sections or subsections hereof are declared to be severable.
"Section 6. Any person or organization who shall violate the provisions of this ordinance shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined . . . ."
"At a regular meeting of the North Little Rock City Council held in the Council Chamber on December 9, 1957, I was instructed to request a list of the names and addresses of all the officers and members of the North Little Rock Branch of the NAACP.
"This portion of the questionaire answered by you on December 4, 1957 did not furnish this information. The above information must be received not later than December 18, 1957 as requested in the original questionaire received by you on December 3, 1957."
(In fact, the names of all the officers of the North Little Rock branch had already been submitted in accordance with § 2C of the ordinance.)