Yates v. United States (1957) was one of the last cases involving the
prosecution of American Communists and ruled that that the First Amendment
protects advocacy of ideas.
Communist Organizations and Freedom of Association
The Supreme Court developed several First Amendment doctrines in cases growing out of conflict between various members of the Communist Party and federal and state officials.
Congress adopted several statutes aimed at or applicable to communists, including the Alien Registration Act, or Smith Act, of 1940; the Internal Security Act, or McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act; and the Communist Control Act of 1954.
States also adopted criminal anarchy or criminal syndicalism laws aimed at communists, particularly during and after World War I — when communists gained control of Russia in 1917, and after which they often maintained ties to the American Communist Party — and in the 1940s and 1950s during the red scare. Such statutes included loyalty oaths and registration requirements, which led to several First Amendment challenges before the Supreme Court.
Following are Supreme Court cases involving those laws.
Dennis v. United States (1951) applied the First Amendment clear and
present danger test to uphold the convictions of U.S.-based communists for
their political teachings.
In Schneiderman v. United States, the Supreme Court invoked First Amendment
protection of freedom of belief in deciding that the United States could
not revoke the naturalized citizenship of an immigrant because of his
Basing the decision on the freedom of association under the First
Amendment, the Supreme Court in 1967 upheld the dismissal of an indictment
against a Communist member who worked at a defense facility in United
States v. Robel. The man had been indicted under the McCarran Internal
Security Act which prohibited employment of Communists at defense
The Supreme Court in 1967 rejected a claim by the W.E.B. Dubois Clubs of
America, the youth arm of the Communist Party in the United States, that
the McCarran Act of 1950 violated the First Amendment as it related to
registration of communist-front organizations.
American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born v. Subversive Activities
Control Board (1965) said the control board should reconsider a group’s