Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of N. Y., Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 4 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 150 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners contend that a village ordinance making it a misdemeanor to engage in door-to-door advocacy without first registering with the mayor and receiving a permit violates the First Amendment. Through this facial challenge, we consider the door-to-door canvassing regulation not only as it applies to religious proselytizing, but also to anonymous political speech and the distribution of handbills.


Petitioner Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., coordinates the preaching activities of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the United States and publishes Bibles and religious periodicals that are widely distributed. Petitioner Wellsville, Ohio, Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc., supervises the activities of approximately 59 members in a part of Ohio that includes the Village of Stratton (Village). Petitioners offer religious literature without cost to anyone interested in reading it. They allege that they do not solicit contributions or orders for the sale of merchandise or services, but they do accept donations.

Petitioners brought this action against the Village and its mayor in the United States District Court for the Southern

David Collins, and Karen M. Klaver; for the Center for Individual Freedom by Eric S. Jaffe; for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Von G. Keetch; for the Electronic Privacy Information Center et al. by Marc Rotenberg, Steven R. Shapiro, and Raymond Vasvari; and for, Inc., et al. by William J. Olson, John S. Miles, and Herbert W. Titus.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Ohio Municipal League by Barry M. Byron and John E. Gotherman; and for the International Municipal Lawyers Association et al. by Richard Ruda and James I. Crowley.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Brennan Center for Justice by Burt Neuborne, Deborah Goldberg, and Richard L. Hasen; and for Independent Baptist Churches of America by Thomas W. King III.


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