what is the historical importance of the "Cassius Clay v. United States" supreme court case then and now?

yeah, i was wondering what is the importance of the Cassius Clay v. United states supreme court case then and now? and for those who dont know which case it is, its the Muhammad Ali one where he refuses to go to the Vietnam war...

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Facts of the Case:

    Board No. 47, Louisville, Kentucky, denied the application of Cassius Clay, also known as Muhammad Ali, for classification as a conscientious objector. Clay then took an administrative appeal to the Kentucky Appeal Board, which tentatively classified him I-A, or eligible for unrestricted military service, and referred his file to the Justice Department for an advisory recommendation. The Justice Department concluded, contrary to a hearing officer's recommendation, that Clay's claim should be denied. The Department wrote that Clay did not meet any of the three basic tests for conscientious objector status; that he is conscientiously opposed to war in any form, that this opposition is based upon religious training and belief, and that this objection is sincere. Subsequently, the Appeal Board denied Clay's claim, but without stating its reasons. When Clay refused to report for induction, he was tried and convicted of willful refusal to submit to induction. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


    Was Cassius Clay's induction notice invalid because it was grounded upon an erroneous denial of his claim to be classified as a conscientious objector?


    Yes. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that since the Appeal Board gave no reason for the denial of a conscientious objector exemption to Clay, and that it was impossible to determine on which of the three grounds offered in the Justice Department's letter that board relied, Clay's conviction must be reversed. The Court reasoned that Clay satisfied the first two tests of conscientious objection. Regarding the third test, the Court concluded that whether or not Clay met the test of conscientious objection to war in any form, it was not clear that the Appeal Board relied on some legitimate ground in denying the claim, and therefore the conviction could not stand. In separate opinions, Justices William O. Douglas and John M. Harlan concurred. Justice Thurgood Marshall did not participate.


    Decision: 8 votes for Clay, 0 vote(s) against

    Legal provision: Selective Service, Military Selective Service, or Universal Military Service and Training Acts

    The Court held that, since the Appeal Board gave no reason for the denial of a conscientious objector exemption to petitioner, and it is impossible to determine on which of the three grounds offered in the Justice Department's letter that board relied, Ali's conviction must be reversed.



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  • 1 decade ago

    Ok. To many people (the non-geeky legal community), the importance of the case was this. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) refused to enter the military. He had strong religious beliefs that war and violence was wrong, and that to serve would be an affront to his religious convictions. His application (local level) was accepted. The appeal board reversed, and found that he had to serve. He was then banned from boxing, while his appeal was pending. The Supreme Court reversed, and Clay was exonerated.

    The case stands for the proposition that individual citizens should stand up for their beliefs, and that while it can harm you, it is the right thing to do. That conscientous objector status is a right of all citizens, if it is truly believed ...

    But, sadly, that is NOT what the Supreme Court held.

    The Supreme court reversed on a procedural/technical basis.

    There were three possible grounds to refuse concientous objector status. The appeal board recited the three standards, and found that Clay had failed on his burden under those standards. Therefore, held the appeal board, Clay's objector status should not be sustained, and his refusal to be inducted was a violation of law.

    The Supreme court noted that, before that court, the US Government acknowledged that two of the possible reasons to reject objector status were clearly not supported by the record. The government argued that there was evidence to support rejection of the third basis for rejection of objector status. However, the Supreme COurt noted that since the Appeals Board did not articulate which standard it was relying on, and since two out of the three standards were not applicable, the ruling of the Appeals Board must be reversed. Had the Appeals Board simply said that they were relying on the third basis, it is possible, even likely, that the case would have been decided differently. The take away -- if you are ruling on an administrative issue, identify the basis for your decision. Otherwise, your decision is an abuse of discretion.

    Good luck

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    He refused to go to war for religious reasons, even changed his name to Mohammed Ali.

    What historical importance is it? It created precedence in a court case reffering to religious beliefs and military. However, if tried today, it wouldn't stand a chance becuase so many Muslims within our armed forces currently on the front lines.

    In summary, Ali was a P U S S Y!! Heck, Elvis and Jimmy Hendrix even went into the military, and ALI couldn't? I have NO respect for the man!

    • ss5 years agoReport

      plase pray tell how many tours of duty you completed in Iraq ? yea that's what I thought U PUSSY !

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  • peggy
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Awesome answers given

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  • Anonymous
    4 years ago


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