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Bond v. Floyd - Significance

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State legislators enjoy the same absolute right to free speech as other citizens.

Julian Bond was the communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a black lobbying and direct action group. In June of 1965, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives by a large majority. Just before the House was to meet in January of 1966, SNCC issued a controversial statement regarding the war in Vietnam.

The SNCC declaration said that the U.S. government was responsible for the murder of southern Blacks, that the United States was the aggressor in Vietnam, and that young men should break the law by refusing to be drafted.

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 Vietnam in the name of the "freedom" we find so false in this country.
A radio reporter interviewed Julian Bond by telephone right after the SNCC statement was released. Bond endorsed the statement's contents.

By 10 January, when the Georgia House convened, 75 House members had challenged Bond's right to be seated, and the clerk refused to admit him. When interviewed by a special committee of the House, Bond stuck by his earlier statements. Nevertheless, he asked to take the oath to support the constitutions of his state and the United States required of all legislators by those same documents. (Article Six of the U.S. Constitution requires that legislators in every state take this oath.)

The House voted 184-12 not to seat Bond. His statements, the House said, made it clear that he could not in good faith take the constitutional oaths. Bond's assertions gave aid and comfort to America's enemies, and they violated the Selective Service law. They "are reprehensible and are such as tend to bring discredit to and disrespect of the House."

Bond sued before the Federal District Court, asserting that by refusing his seat to him, the legislature had violated his First Amendment right to free speech. By a 2-1 decision, the District Court rejected his claim. Bond appealed to the Supreme Court.

Bond v. Floyd - Can States Require That Legislators Meet Ethical Standards? [next]

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