Emory Law Journal


This Article examines the relationship between expressive freedom and freedom of conscience as the modern First Amendment took shape. It focuses on efforts by the American Union Against Militarism and National Civil Liberties Bureau¿the organizational precursors to the ACLU¿to secure exemptions from military service for conscientious objectors whose opposition to American involvement in the First World War stemmed from socialist or radical labor convictions rather than religious scruples. Although such men asserted secular, ethical objections to war, advocates strained to expand the First Amendment¿s Free Exercise Clause to encompass them. Concurrently, they sought to import a generalized theory of freedom of conscience into constitutional constructions of freedom of speech and press, within and outside the courts. The conception of liberty of conscience that they advanced, which they linked to an ¿Anglo-Saxon tradition¿ of individual rights, clashed with progressive understandings of democratic citizenship and failed to gain broad- based traction.