Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly

Liberty’s Refuge (Yale University Press, 2012) is available for purchase or freely available online under a Creative Commons License.

From the Publisher

This original and provocative book looks at an important constitutional freedom that today is largely forgotten: the right of assembly. While this right lay at the heart of some of the most important social movements in American history—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements—courts now prefer to speak about the freedoms of association and speech. But the right of “expressive association” undermines protections for groups whose purposes are demonstrable not by speech or expression but through ways of being. John D. Inazu demonstrates that the forgetting of assembly and the embrace of association lose sight of important dimensions of our constitutional tradition.

LR Cover.jpg


“The Framers of the Bill of Rights took care to protect not just speech, but speech in association with others, which they called ‘freedom of assembly.’  The Supreme Court, of late, has reduced this important right to a mere appendage to freedom of speech.  This important book explains why an independent right of assembly or association matters to civil liberties, and why it is in danger.”

Michael McConnell, Richard & Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford Law School

“Inazu offers the most thorough survey we have of the changing conceptions of freedom of assembly in America.”

Andrew Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, and author of A Right to Discriminate? How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the Law of Free Association

“An original, important, and provocative work. . . . Inazu writes beautifully, he has researched exhaustively, and he keeps the reader’s attention through an impressive range of topics and history…The book is a pleasure to read.”

Robert Vischer, Dean and Mengler Chair in Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, and author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State

“The First Amendment’s guarantee of ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble’ is the neglected stepchild of modern constitutional law. John Inazu’s Liberty’s Refuge breathes new life into the clause. His careful historical and analytical reading of the clause explains it as a core component of the constitutional protections available to all individuals.”

Richard Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

“This is a splendid act of retrieval. . . . Inazu reminds us of a strong American tradition of assembly: one that recognizes that state is not the only ‘sovereign’ in American life, that groups play a vital role in our social infrastructure, and that their meaning goes far beyond their ‘message.’ His book provides a strong challenge to current law and scholarship, and raises deep questions about the meaning of the First Amendment and the nature of society. Thoughtfully argued, beautifully written, drawing on a wealth of sources, Inazu’s book is a valuable contribution to First Amendment law and theory.”

Paul Horwitz, Gordon Rosen Professor, University of Alabama School of Law and author of First Amendment Institutions

“This is a scholarly book, written in a style that is accessible to anyone with a serious interest in the freedom of assembly in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Inazu’s historical narrative is important, and his normative arguments are deep and interesting. Although scholars will have quibbles (about his treat of Rawls, for example), this is the best contemporary book about this topic.”

Lawrence Solum, John Carroll Research Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School

“A truly impressive achievement. . . . Liberty’s Refuge is an important book with a lot of original and interesting things to say about the First Amendment.  In many ways, however, my favorite thing about this book is not just what it says, but how it says it.”

Ashutosh Bhagwat, Professor of Law, University of California (Davis) School of Law

“Inazu’s clear prose style and relentless intellectual honesty enable and even invite criticism while also forcing critics to acknowledge and confront the force of his ideas.  Inazu’s avowed goal with this book is to start a discussion, and he has achieved that goal brilliantly.”

Gregory Magarian, Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law

“We owe a debt to Inazu for his exhumation of a once—and still—fundamental constitutional liberty. Inazu has invited us to participate in a conversation about a long-forgotten freedom, and has provided compelling reasons to accept this invitation. I look forward to reading his future work and to future discussions regarding the recovered freedom of assembly.”

Timothy Zick, Robert and Elizabeth Scott Research Professor, William and Mary School of Law and author of Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places

Longer Reviews and Blog Posts

Jeremy Kessler in The New Republic (January 12, 2012)

Anthony Deardurff on The Liberty Law Blog (April 2, 2012)

Todd Gitlin in The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 7, 2012)

Richard Epstein in Engage (May 17, 2012)

Michael McConnell in First Things (August/September 2012)


With Richard Reinsch on Liberty Law Talk (June 18, 2012)

With Michael McConnell on Federalist Society Podcast (July 6, 2012)


Washington University School of Law (March 2, 2012)

Commentators: Gregory Magarian (Wash U. Law), Ian MacMullen (Wash U. Political Science), Bernadette Meyler (Cornell Law), Neil Richards (Wash U. Law), Robert Vischer (St. Thomas Law), Susan Appleton (Wash U. Law), Ashutosh Bhagwat (UC Davis Law)

Federalist Society and American Enterprise Institute (May 8, 2012)

Moderator: Honorable Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit)
Commentators: Douglas Laycock (Virginia Law) and David Bernstein (George Mason Law)