Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. 452 U.S. 640 (1981)

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One rule governing the Minnesota State Fair allows the sale or distribution of literature, or the solicitation of funds, only at fixed booths. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) sued in a state court challenging this rule's validity on its face and as applied. ISKCON contended that the rule violated its first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religious liberty. The Minnesota Supreme Court held the law invalid as applied to ISKCON, saying that the state authorities had not shown that exempting ISKCON from the rule would significantly interfere with crowd control at the fair.

The Supreme Court reversed, upholding the rule on its face and as applied to distribution (5–4) and to sales and solicitation (9–0). Justice byron r. white wrote for the Court. He concluded that the rule, which made no distinctions based on speech content and allowed no discretion to the licensing authorities, was valid as a regulation of the time, place, and manner of speech. The fair was a public forum, but differed significantly from a public street. Considerations of safety and crowd control amounted to substantial state interests, justifying the rule restricting sales, distribution, and solicitation to booths. Exempting ISKCON would require exempting all applicants. Other less restrictive means for achieving those interests, such as penalizing disorder or limiting the number of solicitors, were unlikely to deal with the problems posed by large numbers of solicitors roaming the fairgrounds.

Justice william j. brennan's partial dissent, joined by two other Justices, argued that the rule was invalid in application to ISKCON's proposed distribution of literature. Such distribution, he argued, was no more disruptive than the making of speeches, or face-to-face proselytizing, both of which were permitted. Justice harry a. blackmun also dissented as to the distribution of literature.

Kenneth L. Karst

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Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. 452 U.S. 640 (1981)

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