KENT v. DULLES
Rockwell Kent applied for and was refused a passport to visit England. In addition to informing him that his application refusal rested on his Communist Party affiliations, the Passport Office Director told Kent that in order for a passport to be issued a hearing would be necessary. The Director instructed Kent to submit an affidavit as to whether he was a current or past Communist. Upon the advice of counsel, Kent refused to sign the affidavit but did participate in a hearing at which he was once more asked to sign an affidavit concerning his Communist affiliations. When he refused the affidavit, the Passport Department advised Kent that no further action would be taken on his passport request until he satisfied the affidavit requirement. On appeal from consecutive adverse rulings in both district and appellate court, the Supreme Court granted Kent certiorari.
Could the Executive's Passport Department defer or refuse the issuance of passports to individuals suspected of being Communists or of traveling abroad to further Communist causes?
Legal provision: 22 U.S.C. 211
No. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the right to travel is an inherent element of "liberty" that cannot be denied to American citizens. Although the Executive may regulate the travel practices of citizens, by requiring them to obtain valid passports, it may not condition the fulfillment of such requirements with the imposition of rules that abridge basic constitutional notions of liberty, assembly, association, and personal autonomy.