Opinion of the Court
been from a religious perspective. In our view, denial on that basis was plainly invalid under our holding in Cornelius, supra, at 806, that
"[a]lthough a speaker may be excluded from a nonpublic forum if he wishes to address a topic not encompassed within the purpose of the forum . . . or if he is not a member of the class of speakers for whose especial benefit the forum was created . . . , the government violates the First Amendment when it denies access to a speaker solely to suppress the point of view he espouses on an otherwise includible subject."
The film series involved here no doubt dealt with a subject otherwise permissible under Rule 10, and its exhibition was denied solely because the series dealt with the subject from a religious standpoint. The principle that has emerged from our cases "is that the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others." City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U. S. 789, 804 (1984). That principle applies in the circumstances of this case; as Judge Posner said for the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to discriminate "against a particular point of view . . . would . . . flunk the test . . . [of] Cornelius, provided that the defendants have no defense based on the establishment clause." May v. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., 787 F. 2d 1105, 1114 (1986).
The District, as a respondent, would save its judgment
below on the ground that to permit its property to be used for religious purposes would be an establishment of religion forbidden by the First Amendment. This Court suggested in Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U. S. 263, 271 (1981), that the interest of the State in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation "may be [a] compelling" one justifying an abridgment of free speech otherwise protected by the First Amendment; but the Court went on to hold that permitting use of univer-Page: Index Previous 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007