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Private Membership Associations

By Jay Warren, DC

The constitutional way to protect our health, education, and businesses.

Whether you are male or female, single or married, black or white, Red or Blue, without question, your life as you knew it has been altered by the global pandemic. Shutdowns, closures, restrictions, and mandates limited the freedoms we enjoyed in an effort to prevent people from getting sick and dying.

But now that the crisis is over, it doesn’t appear that we are going back to “business as usual.” Our freedoms are still being limited, despite the waning public health risk and in some areas, it does not look like they will ever be fully restored. In the same way we got used to always taking off our shoes in the security line to be able to get on a plane flight, we are being told that our “new normal” might always include having to wear masks indoors or needing to show proof of vaccination to go to a concert, to travel, to send our children to school, or even to keep our jobs.

I remember the day clearly when I read the announcement that all healthcare workers in the state of California were going to be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to continue seeing patients. As a chiropractor, this went against my philosophy of health, my principles, and my common sense, let alone the research I had done on the science of this subject.

What was I going to do? Close my practice and abandon the people I’ve helped for years? Or be forced to get a medical procedure I did not want just to keep my license and keep my practice open?

Well, even though chiropractors were soon declared exempt from this order (for now!), this led me to discover a well-established, yet little-known way of doing business, in an effort to combat these restrictions. I have found a way to protect my business and my livelihood using a private membership association (PMA). I also learned that I wasn’t alone in this. Many health practitioners, educators, and business owners across the country are using this business entity to protect our rights. The PMA structure that protects our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the way we choose it, is found in the very document that established these unalienable rights, the U.S. Constitution.

Membership associations are a business and tax structure that allows an individual or business to operate in the private domain rather than the public domain.

Private membership associations are a business and tax structure that allows an individual or business to operate in the private domain rather than the public domain.

The public domain is the world most of us are used to when conducting business: complying with local health ordinances, submitting to state licensing requirements, and obeying federal mandates. A properly established PMA functions in the private domain, which allows you to do business outside of local, state, and federal jurisdictions. A common example is a golf course located in a “dry” county that sets up a PMA so that their patrons can buy a drink in the clubhouse afterward, thus avoiding local restrictions on sales of alcohol. But commonly known, large organizations function this way too, such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts, the NAACP, and even the American Medical Association.

PMAs are founded and protected by the First Amendment (freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of assembly), as well as the 5th and 14th Amendments (the right to private contract without government restrictions). PMA is the umbrella term for this business structure, but there are subsets of it for particular types of businesses. Some of the most common are private health associations, which is how my chiropractic practice now successfully operates as of this year, and private education associations, which are usually homeschool-type cooperatives, although other schools can be set up this way.

In the same way that the government can’t reasonably interfere with what you say or do within your own home with your family and friends, a PMA allows you to practice, educate, and otherwise do business as you choose. Your patients, clients, or customers become members of your association and agree to abide by rules you establish for your business. You clearly communicate to them what services and products you offer and the manner in which you conduct your business, and each person chooses for themselves whether they want to participate in that or not. It’s as simple as that.

This does not mean that you can operate without morals or ethics.

You cannot conduct business that “creates a clear and present danger of bringing about a substantial evil.” But operating in the private domain does mean that doctors may talk with their patients about certain health issues and procedures that their state board prevents them from discussing. It means that schools may enroll children to receive education who don’t meet the prevailing immunization requirements. It means that businesses are free to serve their communities in the way they see fit without fear of being shut down for non-compliance. With a properly set up PMA, one can do business outside of local, state, and federal licensing and/or regulation without fear of governmental interference or retribution.

I now have peace of mind when I read headlines indicating that vaccine mandates for healthcare workers might come back in my state. I know my practice is protected, and I will continue to be able to serve my practice members for as long as I want to, in the way that I want to, regardless of whatever politically motivated decision comes at our profession.

While we might not ever go back to the way it was before the pandemic or back to “business as usual,” maybe we don’t want to. And maybe we don’t have to, even with governmental regulatory agencies and other “powers that be” telling us what we can and cannot do. PMAs are the constitutional way for “we the people” to take our power back and have the freedom to make personal health decisions for ourselves and our families, to educate our children in the way we see fit, and to enjoy the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.