Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of N. Y., Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 11 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

volved a flat prohibition on the dissemination of ideas, e. g., Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U. S. 141 (1943), or an ordinance that left the issuance of a permit to the discretion of a municipal officer, see, e. g., Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296, 302 (1940).

In dissent, Judge Gilman expressed the opinion that by subjecting noncommercial solicitation to the permit requirements, the ordinance significantly restricted a substantial quantity of speech unrelated to the Village's interest in eliminating fraud and unwanted annoyance. In his view, the Village "failed to demonstrate either the reality of the harm or the efficacy of the restriction." 240 F. 3d, at 572.

We granted certiorari to decide the following question: "Does a municipal ordinance that requires one to obtain a permit prior to engaging in the door-to-door advocacy of a political cause and to display upon demand the permit, which contains one's name, violate the First Amendment protection accorded to anonymous pamphleteering or discourse?" 534 U. S. 971 (2001); Pet. for Cert. i.9


For over 50 years, the Court has invalidated restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering.10 It is

more than historical accident that most of these cases involved First Amendment challenges brought by Jehovah's Witnesses, because door-to-door canvassing is mandated by their religion. As we noted in Murdock v. Pennsylvania,

9 In their briefs and at oral argument, the parties debated a factual issue embedded in the question presented, namely, whether the permit contains the speaker's name. We need not resolve this factual dispute in order to answer whether the ordinance's registration requirement abridges so much protected speech that it is invalid on its face.

10 Hynes v. Mayor and Council of Oradell, 425 U. S. 610 (1976); Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U. S. 141 (1943); Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U. S. 105 (1943); Jamison v. Texas, 318 U. S. 413 (1943); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296 (1940); Schneider v. State (Town of Irvington), 308 U. S. 147 (1939); Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U. S. 444 (1938).

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