OCTOBER TERM, 2001
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
No. 00-1737. Argued February 26, 2002—Decided June 17, 2002
Respondent Village of Stratton (Village) promulgated an ordinance that, inter alia, prohibits "canvassers" from "going in and upon" private residential property to promote any "cause" without first obtaining a permit from the mayor's office by completing and signing a registration form. Petitioners, a society and a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses that publish and distribute religious materials, brought this action for injunctive relief, alleging that the ordinance violates their First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion, free speech, and freedom of the press. The District Court upheld most provisions of the ordinance as valid, content-neutral regulations, although it did require the Village to accept narrowing constructions of several provisions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Among its rulings, that court held that the ordinance was content neutral and of general applicability and therefore subject to intermediate scrutiny; rejected petitioners' argument that the ordinance is overbroad because it impairs the right to distribute pamphlets anonymously that was recognized in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U. S. 334; concluded that the Village's interests in protecting its residents from fraud and undue annoyance and its desire to prevent criminals from posing as canvassers in order to defraud its residents were sufficient bases on which to justify the regulation; and distinguished this Court's earlier cases protecting the Jehovah's Witnesses ministry.
Held: The ordinance's provisions making it a misdemeanor to engage in door-to-door advocacy without first registering with the mayor and receiving a permit violate the First Amendment as it applies to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills. Pp. 160-169.
(a) For over 50 years, this Court has invalidated on First Amendment grounds restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering by Jehovah's Witnesses. See, e. g., Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U. S. 105. Although those cases do not directly control the question at issue, they yield several themes that guide the Court. Among other things,Page: Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next
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