385 U.S. 116 (1966), 87, Bond v. Floyd

Docket Nº:No. 87
Citation:385 U.S. 116, 87 S.Ct. 339, 17 L.Ed.2d 235
Party Name:Bond v. Floyd
Case Date:December 05, 1966
Court:United States Supreme Court

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385 U.S. 116 (1966)

87 S.Ct. 339, 17 L.Ed.2d 235




No. 87

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 5, 1966

Argued November 10, 1966




Several months after the election in June 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives of appellant Bond, a Negro, a civil rights organization of which he was a staff member issued an anti-war statement against the Government's Vietnam policy and the operation of the Selective Service laws. Bond endorsed the statement in a news interview stating, among other things, that, as "a second class citizen," he was not required to support the war, as a pacifist, he was opposed to all war, and he saw nothing inconsistent with his statement and his taking the oath of office. House members, in petitions, challenged Bond's right to be seated, charging that his statements aided our enemies, violated the Selective Service laws, discredited the House, and were inconsistent with the legislator's mandatory oath to support the Constitution. Following the House clerk's refusal to seat him, Bond, manifesting willingness to take the oath, challenged the petitions as depriving him of his First Amendment rights and being racially motivated. At a House committee hearing, Bond amplified his views and denied having urged draft card burning or other law violations. Following the hearing, the committee concluded that Bond should not be seated, and the House thereafter refused to seat him. Bond brought this action in District Court for injunctive relief and declaratory judgment. The District Court, holding that it had jurisdiction to decide the constitutional issue, concluded that Bond had been accorded procedural due process through the hearing. It also held that the House had a rational basis for concluding that Bond's remarks exceeded criticism of national policy and that he could not in good faith take an oath to support the State and Federal Constitutions, and thus could not meet a qualification for membership which the House had the power to impose. While Bond's appeal to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1253 from that decision was pending, he was again elected as a Representative, in a special election. He was rejected by the House Rules Committee

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when he declined to recant, and later was elected again, in the regular 1966 primary and general elections.


1. This Court has jurisdiction to determine whether a disqualification for the office of state legislator under color of a proper constitutional standard violates First Amendment rights. P. 131.

2. In disqualifying Bond because of his statements, the State violated the First Amendment made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. Pp. 131-137.

(a) A majority of state legislators is not authorized to test the sincerity with which another duly elected legislator meets the requirement for holding office of swearing to support the Federal and State Constitutions. P. 132.

(b) The State may not apply to a legislator a First Amendment standard stricter than that applicable to a private citizen. Pp. 132-133.

(c) Bond's statements do not show an incitement to violate the Selective Service statute's prohibition of counseling against registration for military service. Pp. 133-134.

(d) Though a State may impose all oath requirement on legislators, it cannot limit their capacity to express views on local or national policy. "[D]ebate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open." New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270. Pp. 135-136.

251 F.Supp. 333, reversed.

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WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented in this case is whether the Georgia House of Representatives may constitutionally exclude appellant Bond, a duly elected Representative, from membership because of his statements, and statements to which he subscribed, criticizing the policy of the Federal Government in Vietnam and the operation of the Selective Service laws. An understanding of the circumstances of the litigation requires a complete presentation of the events and statements which led to this appeal.

Bond, a Negro, was elected on June 15, 1965, as the Representative to the Georgia House of Representatives from the 136th House District. Of the District's 6,500 voters, approximately 6,000 are Negroes. Bond defeated his opponent, Malcolm Dean, Dean of Men at Atlanta University, also a Negro, by a vote of 2,320 to 487.

On January 6, 1966, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization of which Bond was then the Communications Director, issued the following statement on American policy in Vietnam and its relation to the work of civil rights organizations in this country:

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee has a right and a responsibility to dissent with United States foreign policy on an issue when it sees fit. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee now states its opposition to United States' involvement in Viet Nam on these grounds:

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We believe the United States government has been deceptive in its claims of concern for freedom of the Vietnamese people, just as the government has been deceptive in claiming concern for the freedom of colored people in such other countries as the Dominican Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia and in the United States itself.

We, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, have been involved in the black people's struggle for liberation and self-determination in this country for the past five years. Our work, particularly in the South, has taught us that the United States government has never guaranteed the freedom of oppressed citizens, and is not yet truly determined to end the rule of terror and oppression within its own borders.

We ourselves have often been victims of violence and confinement executed by United States government officials. We recall the numerous persons who have been murdered in the South because of their efforts to secure their civil and human rights, and whose murderers have been allowed to escape penalty for their crimes.

The murder of Samuel Young in Tuskegee, Ala., is no different than the murder of peasants in Viet Nam, for both Young and the Vietnamese sought, and are seeking, to secure the rights guaranteed them by law. In each case, the United States government bears a great part of the responsibility for these deaths.

Samuel Young was murdered because United States law is not being enforced. Vietnamese are murdered because the United States is pursuing an aggressive policy in violation of international law. The United States is no respecter of persons or law

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when such persons or laws run counter to its needs and desires.

We recall the indifference, suspicion and outright hostility with which our reports of violence have been met in the past by government officials.

We know that, for the most part, elections in this country, in the North as well as the South, are not free. We have seen that the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act have [87 S.Ct. 342] not yet been implemented with full federal power and sincerity.

We question, then, the ability and even the desire of the United States government to guarantee free elections abroad. We maintain that our country's cry of "preserve freedom in the world" is a hypocritical mask behind which it squashes liberation movements which are not bound, and refuse to be bound, by the expediencies of United States cold war policies.

We are in sympathy with, and support, the men in this country who are unwilling to respond to a military draft which would compel them to contribute their lives to United States aggression in Viet Nam in the name of the "freedom" we find so false in this country.

We recoil with horror at the inconsistency of a supposedly "free" society where responsibility to freedom is equated with the responsibility to lend oneself to military aggression. We take note of the fact that 16 percent of the draftees from this country are Negroes called on to stifle the liberation of Viet Nam, to preserve a "democracy" which does not exist for them at home.

We ask, where is the draft for the freedom fight in the United States?

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We therefore encourage those Americans who prefer to use their energy in building democratic forms within this country. We believe that work in the civil rights movement and with other human relations organizations is a valid alternative to the draft. We urge all Americans to seek this alternative, knowing full well that it may cost their lives -- as painfully as in Viet Nam.

On the same day that this statement was issued, Bond was interviewed by telephone by a reporter from a local radio station, and, although Bond had not participated in drafting the statement, he endorsed the statement in these words:

Why, I endorse it, first, because I like to think of myself as a pacifist, and one who opposes that war and any other war, and eager and anxious to encourage people not to participate in it for any reason that they choose, and secondly, I agree with this statement because of the reason set forth in it -- because I think it is sorta hypocritical for us to maintain that we are fighting for liberty in other places and we are not guaranteeing liberty to citizens inside the continental United States.

* * * *

Well, I think that the fact that the United States Government fights a war in Viet Nam, I don't think that I, as a second class citizen of the United States, have a requirement to support that war. I think my responsibility is to oppose things that I think are wrong if they are in Viet Nam or New York, or Chicago, or Atlanta, or wherever.

When the interviewer suggested that our involvement in Vietnam was because "if we do not stop Communism

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