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Majority Opinions Authored by Justice Francis Murphy

This case presents the question whether regulations embodied in a municipal ordinance abridge the freedom of speech or of the press secured against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment.[1]Section 2 of an ordinance of Shasta County, California, provides:"It shall be unlawful for any person, in or upon any public street, highway, sidewalk, alley or other public place in the County of Shasta, State of California, to loiter in front of, or in the vicinity of, or to picket in front of, or in the vicinity of, or to carry, show or display any banner, transparency, badge or sign in front of, or in the vicinity of, any works, or factory, or any place of business or employment, for the purpose of inducing or influencing or attempting to induce or influence, any person to refrain from entering any such works, or factory, or place of business, or employment, or for the purpose of inducing or influencing, or attempting to induce or influence, any person to refrain from purchasing or using any goods, wares, merchandise, or other articles, manufactured, made or kept for sale therein, or for the purpose of inducing or influencing, or attempting to induce or influence, any person to refrain from doing or performing any service or labor in any works, factory, place of business or employment, or for the purpose of intimidating, threatening or coercing, or attempting to intimidate, threaten or coerce any person who is performing, seeking or obtaining service or labor in any such works, factory, place of business or employment."[2]*110 Appellant was one of a group of twenty-nine men engaged in "picketing" on U.S. Highway 99 in front of the Delta Tunnel Project in Shasta County. "The picketing consisted of walking [on the edge of the highway nearest the project] a distance of 50 to 100 feet in a general northerly direction, then turning around and retracing steps and continuing as before . . . all of the walking in connection with the picketing . . . was done off the paved portion of the highway and on the gravelled portion of the right-of-way, that is, on public property." Some of the pickets carried signs, similar to those described in the margin,[3] in such a manner that workers on the project and persons going along the highway in either direction could read them. The sign carried by appellant bore the legend: "This job is unfair to CIO." These activities occurred between the hours of 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. During this period vehicles and persons passed freely without any molestation or interference through the picket line from the highway to the project and from the project to the highway, and the traffic of persons and automobiles along the highway was not obstructed. Appellant did not threaten or intimidate or coerce anyone, did not make any loud noises at any time, and was peaceful and orderly in his demeanor. The *111 pickets committed no acts of violence, and there was no breach of the peace.

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Walter Chaplinsky, a Jehovah’s Witness, stood on a street corner in Rochester, NH distributing materials and denouncing all religions as a “racket.” After people complained to the city marshal about Chaplinsky’s actions, the officer informed the crowd that he was allowed to be on the corner. As the crowd grew more restless, the marshal warned Chaplinsky of a riot, to which he replied “You are a God damned racketeer” and “a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.” Chaplinsky was arrested and convicted under a state statute, making it unlawful to “address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation.”

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We brought this case here on certiorari, 314 U.S. 597, because of its importance and its possible relation to freedom of thought. The question is whether the naturalization of petitioner, an admitted member of the Communist Party of the United States, was properly set aside by the courts below some twelve years after it was granted. We agree with our brethren of the minority that our relations with Russia, as well as our views regarding its government and the merits of Communism are immaterial to a decision of this case. Our concern is with what Congress *120 meant by certain statutes and whether the Government has proved its case under them.

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Byron Thornhill was “on the picket line” at Brown Wood Preserving Company after a strike order was issued by his union. This action violated an Alabama statute that made it illegal to “go near to or loiter about the premises or place of business” to persuade others “not to trade with, buy from, sell to, have business dealings with, or be employed by such persons.”

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