Content neutrality is defined by the absence of discrimination based on the subject matter of the speech or the point of view expressed.

Opinions & Commentaries

City ordinance prohibiting all picketing within 150 feet of a school, except peaceful picketing of any school involved in a labor dispute, found by the Court of Appeals to be unconstitutional because overbroad, held violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since it makes an impermissible distinction between peaceful labor picketing and other peaceful picketing.

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A group of labor union members who engaged in peaceful primary picketing within the confines of a privately owned shopping center were threatened by an agent of the owner with arrest for criminal trespass if they did not depart. The question presented is whether this threat violated the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, as amended, 61 Stat. 136, 29 U. S. C. § 151 et seq. The National Labor Relations Board concluded that it did, 205 N. L. R. B. 628, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed. 501 F. 2d 161. We granted certiorari because of the seemingly important questions of federal law presented. 420 U. S. 971.

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At issue in this case is the constitutionality under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of a state statute that generally bars picketing of residences or dwellings, but exempts from its prohibition "the peaceful picketing of a place of employment involved in a labor dispute."

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The question in this case is whether the First Amendment, as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment, is violated by an order of the Public Service Commission of the State of New York that prohibits the inclusion in monthly electric bills of inserts discussing controversial issues of public policy.

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A rule (Rule 6.05) of the Minnesota Agricultural Society (Society), a Minnesota public corporation that operates the annual state fair, provides that sale or distribution of any merchandise, including printed or written material, except from a duly licensed location on the fairgrounds shall be a misdemeanor. As Rule 6.05 is construed and applied by the Society, all persons, groups, or firms desiring to sell, exhibit, or distribute materials during the fair must do so only from fixed locations. However, the Rule does not prevent organizational representatives from walking about the fairgrounds and communicating the organization's views to fair patrons in face-to-face discussions. Space in the fairgrounds is rented in a nondiscriminatory fashion on a first-come, first-served basis, and Rule 6.05 applies alike to nonprofit, charitable, and commercial enterprises. Respondents, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. (ISKCON), an organization espousing the views of the Krishna religion, and the head of one of its temples filed suit in a Minnesota state court against state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that Rule 6.05, on its face and as applied, violated their First Amendment rights. ISKCON asserted that the Rule suppressed the practice of Sankirtan, a religious ritual that enjoins its members to go into public places to distribute or sell religious literature and to solicit donations for the support of the Krishna religion. The trial court upheld the constitutionality of Rule 6.05, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed.

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Under a collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education of Perry Township, Ind., and Perry Education Association (PEA) as the exclusive bargaining representative for the School District's teachers, PEA was granted access to the interschool mail system and teacher mailboxes in the Perry Township schools. The bargaining agreement also provided that access rights to the mail facilities were not available to any rival union, such as Perry Local Educators' Association (PLEA). PLEA and two of its members filed suit in Federal District Court against PEA and individual members of the School Board, contending that PEA's preferential access to the internal mail system violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Section 28.04 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code prohibits the posting of signs on public property.[1] The question presented *792 is whether that prohibition abridges appellees' freedom of speech within the meaning of the First Amendment.[2]In March 1979, Roland Vincent was a candidate for election to the Los Angeles City Council. A group of his supporters known as Taxpayers for Vincent (Taxpayers) entered into a contract with a political sign service company known as Candidates' Outdoor Graphics Service (COGS) to fabricate and post signs with Vincent's name on them. COGS produced 15- by 44-inch cardboard signs and attached them to utility poles at various locations by draping them over crosswires *793 which support the poles and stapling the cardboard together at the bottom. The signs' message was: "Roland Vincent — City Council."Acting under the authority of § 28.04 of the Municipal Code, employees of the city's Bureau of Street Maintenance routinely removed all posters attached to utility poles and similar objects covered by the ordinance, including the COGS signs. The weekly sign removal report covering the period March 1-March 7, 1979, indicated that among the 1,207 signs removed from public property during that week, 48 were identified as "Roland Vincent" signs. Most of the other signs identified in that report were apparently commercial in character.[3]On March 12, 1979, Taxpayers and COGS filed this action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, naming the city, the Director of the Bureau of Street Maintenance, and members of the City Council as defendants.[4] They sought an injunction against enforcement of the ordinance as well as compensatory and punitive damages. After engaging in discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The District Court entered findings of fact, concluded that the ordinance was constitutional, and granted the City's motion.

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The issue in this case is whether a National Park Service regulation prohibiting camping in certain parks violates the First Amendment when applied to prohibit demonstrators from sleeping in Lafayette Park and the Mall in connection with a demonstration intended to call attention to the plight of the homeless. We hold that it does not and reverse the contrary judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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468 U.S. 641 (1984) REGAN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, ET AL. v. TIME, INC.   No. 82-729. Supreme Court of United States.   Argued November 9, 1983 Decided July 3, 1984 APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK*643 Elliott Schulder argued the cause for appellants. With him on… Read more

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This case requires us to decide whether the Federal Government violates the First Amendment when it excludes legal defense and political advocacy organizations from participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC or Campaign), a charity drive aimed at federal employees. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the respondent organizations could not be excluded from the CFC, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 234 U. S. App. D. C. 148, 727 F. 2d 1247 (1984). We granted certiorari, 469 U. S. 929 (1984), and we now reverse.

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This case involves a constitutional challenge to a zoning ordinance, enacted by appellant city of Renton, Washington, that prohibits adult motion picture theaters from locating within 1,000 feet of any residential zone, single- or multiple-family dwelling, church, park, or school. Appellees, Playtime Theatres, Inc., and Sea-First Properties, Inc., filed an action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington seeking a declaratory judgment that the Renton ordinance violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and a permanent injunction against its enforcement. The District Court ruled in favor of Renton and denied the permanent injunction, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for reconsideration. 748 F. 2d 527 (1984). We noted probable jurisdiction, 471 U. S. 1013 (1985), and now reverse the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.[1]*44 In May 1980, the Mayor of Renton, a city of approximately 32,000 people located just south of Seattle, suggested to the Renton City Council that it consider the advisability of enacting zoning legislation dealing with adult entertainment uses. No such uses existed in the city at that time. Upon the Mayor's suggestion, the City Council referred the matter to the city's Planning and Development Committee. The Committee held public hearings, reviewed the experiences of Seattle and other cities, and received a report from the City Attorney's Office advising as to developments in other cities. The City Council, meanwhile, adopted Resolution No. 2368, which imposed a moratorium on the licensing of "any business. . . which . . . has as its primary purpose the selling, renting or showing of sexually explicit materials." App. 43. The resolution contained a clause explaining that such businesses "would have a severe impact upon surrounding businesses and residences." Id., at 42.

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The question presented in this case is whether a state sales tax scheme that taxes general interest magazines, but exempts newspapers and religious, professional, trade, and sports journals, violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press.

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Three former editors of the Spectrum, a student newspaper run as part of a journalism class and funded by the Board of Educators, sued after the principal removed two articles from the May 1983 issue that described student experiences with pregnancy and divorce. The principal believed that the students interviewed and parents discussed in the articles could be identified and found the discussions of birth control and sexual activity inappropriate for younger students.

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485 U.S. 312 (1988) BOOS ET AL. v. BARRY, MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL. No. 86-803. Supreme Court of United States. Argued November 9, 1987 Decided March 22, 1988 CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT *314 Raymond D. Battocchi argued the cause for petitioners…. Read more

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During the 1984 Republican National Convention, respondent Gregory Lee Johnson participated in a political demonstration to protest the policies of the Reagan administration and some Dallas-based corporations. After a march through the city streets, Johnson burned an American flag while protesters chanted. No one was physically injured or threatened with injury, although several witnesses were offended by the flag burning. Johnson was convicted of desecration of a venerated object in violation of a Texas statute, and a state court of appeals affirmed. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, holding that the state, consistent with the First Amendment, could not punish Johnson for burning the flag in these circumstances.

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Respondent Rock Against Racism (RAR), furnishing its own sound equipment and technicians, has sponsored yearly programs of rock music at the Naumberg Acoustic Bandshell in New York City's Central Park. The city received numerous complaints about excessive noise at RAR's concerts. Rejecting various other solutions to the excessive noise and inadequate amplification problems, the city adopted a Use Guideline for the bandshell which specified that the city would furnish high quality sound equipment and retain an independent, experienced sound technician for all performances. After the city implemented this guideline, RAR amended a preexisting District Court complaint against the city to seek damages and a declaratory judgment striking down the guideline as facially invalid under the First Amendment.

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Arkansas' Gross Receipts Act imposed a sales tax on dozens of services, including the provision of cable television. The Act, however, exempted from taxation receipts from newspaper and magazine sales. The cable television industry in Arkansas brought suit challenging the Act, arguing that Arkansas could not constitutionally tax cable television when it was not taxing the print media. The trial court rejected this argument. While the case was on appeal, Arkansas amended the Act to tax all television and radio services. The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the trial court's decision, stating that the First Amendment does not prohibit different taxation of different members of the media. The Arkansas Supreme Court, however, also held that the First Amendment does prohibit differential taxation among member of the same medium and therefore found that the Act was unconstitutional to the extent that it, before the amendment, taxed cable television differently from satellite television services. Differential taxation of speakers and publishers is constitutionally suspect when it threatens to suppress the expression of particular ideas or viewpoints. A tax also is suspect if it targets a small group of speakers. Moreover, a tax triggers heightened scrutiny if it discriminates among speakers based on the content of their speech.Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland, 481 U.S. 221 (1987); Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Comm'r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575 (1983); Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233 (1936).

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In 1977, New York passed legislation commonly known as the "Son of Sam" law, which required any entity contracting with an accused or convicted criminal for the production of a work describing the crime to turn over to the state's Crime Victims Board any income earned under that contract. The Board then made payments from that fund for legal and literary representation, compensation to victims, and payments to other creditors. In 1986, the Board became aware of a contract between publisher Simon & Schuster and organized crime figure Henry Hill for a book entitled Wiseguy. After the Board sought to enforce the Son of Sam law against Simon & Schuster, the publisher brought suit seeking a ruling that the legislation violated the First Amendment. The trial court and Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the statute. A statute is presumed to violate the First Amendment if it imposes a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech. Leathers v. Medlock, 499 U.S. 439 (1991). Such a statute can be upheld only if it is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland, 481 U.S. 221 (1987).

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In mid-1990, a white juvenile in St. Paul was arrested for burning a cross inside the fenced yard of a black family. The juvenile was charged with violating St. Paul's Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance, which prohibited the placement of any symbol on public or private property that aroused anger in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender. The juvenile moved to dismiss this charge, claiming that it was overbroad and impermissibly content-based under the First Amendment. The trial court granted this motion. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance prohibited only “fighting words,” which, since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), had been deemed unworthy of any First Amendment protection.

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The Discovery Network sought to distribute commercial flyers from newspaper racks on city-owned property. Cincinnati had a policy against allowing commercial distribution for reasons of safety and aesthetics.

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The school district of Center Moriches, New York, adopted rules that permitted its facilities to be used for social, civic, and recreational purposes, but that prohibited any group from using the facilities for religious purposes. Lamb's Chapel, an evangelical church, applied for permission to show a six-part film series in one of the buildings. The series presented a religious perspective on family issues and child rearing. The school district denied the application, relying on the prohibition against using the facilities for religious purposes. Lamb's Chapel sued in federal court, but both the trial court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the school district. A government is not obligated to make its non-public facilities available for use by the general public. Even when it does so, it may limit the purposes for which the facilities may be used. The government may not, however, deny access to the facilities based upon the viewpoint of the person who seeks access to them.Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense and Ed. Fund, 473 U.S. 788 (1985). A government may deny access to a religious group if allowing access would violate the First Amendment's prohibition against establishing a religion. One test for evaluating whether the Establishment Clause is being violated is set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971) — whether the challenged governmental action has a secular purpose, whether the action has the principal effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and whether it fosters an excessive entanglement with religion. While never quite repudiated, this test has proven unpopular with many members of the Court.

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Since 1947, the city of Boston has authorized the Council, a private group, to organize the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Council did not admit GLIB to the 1993 parade claiming such an admission would violate the parade’s “traditional religious and social values.” Massachusetts courts required the Council to admit GLIB based on a state public-accommodation law.

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The University of Virginia, a public university, used public money to subsidize publishing costs for nonreligious student groups. The university denied funds to a Christian student group that requested financial assistance to publish a newspaper that would “challenge Christians to live, in word and deed, according to the faith they proclaim and to encourage students to consider what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ means.”

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Congress in 1992 passed the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, which required, among other things, that cable television systems carry local broadcast stations. Several cable operators filed suit, claiming that the legislation violated the freedoms of speech and of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment. In 1993, the district court held that the "must-carry" provisions of the Act were constitutional. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court, in Turner Broadcasting System v. Federal Communications Comm., 114 S. Ct. 2445 (1994), held that the "must-carry" provisions constituted a content-neutral regulation and could be constitutional. The Court then ordered the district court to determine whether the government could demonstrate that the provisions reasonably advanced an important governmental interest. On remand, a divided district court held that Congress had before it "substantial evidence" from which to conclude that the must-carry provisions were necessary to protect the local broadcast industry. When examining content-neutral regulations, courts apply an "intermediate" level of scrutiny. Under this analysis, legislation that affects speech but that does not favor the message of one speaker over another can be constitutional if the legislation (1) furthers an important governmental interest and (2) does not burden more speech than necessary to advance that interest. United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

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In 1990, Congress amended the statute governing the National Endowment for the Arts to require that the NEA chairperson consider "general standards of respect and decency for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public" when awarding art grants. Four artists—Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes and Tim Miller, known collectively as the "NEA 4"—sued in federal court, claiming the so-called "decency clause" violated the First Amendment and forced artists to engage in self-censorship in order to obtain NEA funding. The trial judge ruled in favor of the "NEA 4," ruling that the decency clause was both unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed for "essentially the same reasons as the district court." The 9th Circuit determined the decency clause was void for vagueness and for violating the First Amendment’s general prohibition against content- and viewpoint-based discrimination. A bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that government may not prohibit speech just because it finds the speech offensive or disagreeable. Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989). Sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is also protected by the First Amendment. Sable Communications of Cal., Inc. v. Sable, 492 U.S. 115 (1989). The First Amendment protects against viewpoint discrimination above other forms of content discrimination. Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819 (1995). When the government promotes a particular program and defines the limit of a program, it can fund speech that promotes its goals, even to the detriment of other goals. Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991). "There is a basic difference between direct state interference with a protected activity and state encouragement of an alternative activity consonant with legislative policy." Maher v. Roe, 432 U.S. 464 (1977).

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The University of Wisconsin, Madison required students to pay an activity fee that supported “various campus services and extracurricular student activities,” including diverse ideological and political expression. Three University of Wisconsin law students challenged the fee system in 1996 as unconstitutional. The three Christian students contended that by funneling their money to groups they morally oppose, the university violates their freedom of speech and religious liberty. Both a federal district court and a federal appeals court ruled that the fee system violated the students’ free speech rights.

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In 1994, the Erie City Council enacted a public indecency ordinance that purports to criminalize public nudity. However, statements by several council members indicate the real intent of the law was to target nude dancing at adult entertainment businesses. PAP's A.M., the owner of an adult business called Kandyland, challenged the law in state court under the First Amendment and the free-speech provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution. After a trial judge granted a permanent injunction against the ordinance, the city appealed. In 1996, the intermediate state appeals court, called the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, reversed, finding the law constitutional based on the U.S. Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., which upheld a similar Indiana public indecency law. In 1998, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, finding the law unconstitutional. The state supreme court said that it could find "no clear precedent" from the fragmented Barnes decision. The city contends the state supreme court erred in failing to apply the result of Barnes. Nude dancing is a form of expressive conduct that merits at least some degree of First Amendment protection. Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc.,501 U.S. 560 (1991). Laws that are not designed to suppress freedom of expression but to target harmful secondary effects associated with certain expression are to be considered content-neutral for purposes of First Amendment review. Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50 (1976); Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U.S. 41 (1986).

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Section 505 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires cable television operators to "fully scramble or otherwise fully block the video and audio portion" of channels that provide primarily "sexually explicit adult programming." The act provides that cable operators can comply with _ 505 by showing the "indecent" or "sexually explicit adult programming" only during so-called safe-harbor hours, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when children are not likely to view the programming. In 1996, Playboy Entertainment Group filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware seeking to prohibit the enforcement of Section 505. After the three-judge panel denied Playboy's motion for a preliminary injunction, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 refused to review the denial of the preliminary injunction. On Dec. 28, 1998, the district court ruled that _ 505 violated the First Amendment. The court ruled the law was content-based because it restricted only sexually explicit adult programming. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Indecent speech, unlike obscene speech, is entitled to First Amendment protection. Government officials cannot suppress the free-speech rights of adults in order to protect minors from objectionable material unless the law is very narrowly drafted. Content-based laws are presumptively unconstitutional and the government bears the burden of showing that the law advances a compelling state interest in the least restrictive way.

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At issue is the constitutionality of a 1993 Colorado statute that regulates speech-related conduct within 100 feet of the entrance to any health care facility. The specific section of the statute that is challenged, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9—122(3) (1999), makes it unlawful within the regulated areas for any person to "knowingly approach" within eight feet of another person, without that person's consent, "for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person . . . ."[1] Although the statute prohibits speakers from *708 approaching unwilling listeners, it does not require a standing speaker to move away from anyone passing by. Nor does it place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else, either inside or outside the regulated areas. It does, however, make it more difficult to give unwanted advice, particularly in the form of a handbill or leaflet, to persons entering or leaving medical facilities.

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In Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, this Court found that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA)-Congress' first attempt to protect children from exposure to pornographic material on the Internet-ran afoul of the First Amendment in its regulation of indecent transmissions and the display of patently offensive material. That conclusion was based, in part, on the crucial consideration that the CDA's breadth was wholly unprecedented. After the Court's decision in Reno, Congress attempted to address this concern in the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). Unlike the CDA, COPA applies only to material displayed on the World Wide Web, covers only communications made for commercial purposes, and restricts only "material that is harmful to minors," 47 U. S. C. § 231(a)(I). In defining "material that is harmful to minors," COPA draws on the three-part obscenity test set forth in Miller v. California, 413 U. S. 15, see § 231(e)(6), and thus requires jurors to apply "contemporary community standards" in assessing material, see §231(e)(6)(A). Respondents-who post or have members that post sexually oriented material on the Web-filed a facial challenge before COPA went into effect, claiming, inter alia, that the statute violated adults' First Amendment rights because it effectively banned constitutionally protected speech, was not the least restrictive means of accomplishing a compelling governmental purpose, and was substantially overbroad. The District Court issued a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of COPA because it concluded that the statute was unlikely to survive strict scrutiny. The Third Circuit affirmed but based its decision on a ground not relied upon by the District Court: that COPA's use of "contemporary community standards," § 231(e)(6)(A), to identify material that is harmful to minors rendered the statute substantially overbroad.

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539 U.S. 194 (2003) UNITED STATES et al. v. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, INC., et al.         No. 02-361. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued March 5, 2003. Decided June 23, 2003. APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA*195 *196 *197 REHNQUIST, C. J., announced the… Read more

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It is a federal crime to “knowingly provid[e] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” 18 U. S. C. §2339B(a)(1). The authority to designate an entity a “foreign terrorist organization” rests with the Secretary of State, and is subject to judicial review. Among the entities the Secretary of State has designated “foreign terrorist organization[s]” are the Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan (PKK) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which aim to establish independent states for, respectively, Kurds in Turkey and Tamils in Sri Lanka. Although both groups engage in political and humanitarian activities, each has also committed numerous terrorist attacks, some of which have harmed American citizens. Claiming they wish to support those groups’ lawful, nonviolent activities, two U. S. citizens and six domestic organizations (hereinafter plaintiffs) initiated this constitutional challenge to the material-support statute. Plaintiffs challenge §2339B’s prohibition on providing four types of material support—“training,” “expert advice or assistance,” “service,” and “personnel”—asserting violations of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause on the ground that the statutory terms are impermissibly vague, and violations of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

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Vermont law restricts the sale, disclosure, and use ofpharmacy records that reveal the prescribing practices ofindividual doctors. Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 18, §4631 (Supp.

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A local church without a permanent location often advertised its temporary meeting locations. The church’s signs were subject to a set of provisions in the local code that differed from others because of the sign’s purpose as a temporary sign. The church was notified that it had violated the sign provisions and subsequently sued the town.

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