Free association is one of the bedrock rights that Americans enjoy. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville celebrated it as one of the country’s distinctive features, protecting its fledgling democracy from despotic government.

But in terms of gaining formal legal status, civil-society groups were able to enjoy corporate rights only if they had political views that lawmakers, judges, and government officials found palatable, according to new research by Ruth Bloch of the University...


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