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First Amendment Library:
Jeff D. Griffith


Appellant was convicted of violating an ordinance of the town of McCormick, South Carolina which provided: ". . . the following license on business, occupation and professions to be paid by the person or persons carrying on or engaged in such business, occupation or professions within the corporate limits of the Town of McCormick, South Carolina: Agents selling books, per day $1.00, per year $15.00." Appellant is a Jehovah's Witness and has been certified by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society as "an ordained minister of Jehovah God to preach the gospel of God's kingdom under Christ Jesus." He is a resident of McCormick, South Carolina, where he went from house to house distributing certain books. He obtained his living from the money received; he had no other source of income. He claimed that he merely offered the books for a "contribution." But there was evidence that he "offered to and did sell the books." Admittedly he had no license from the town and refused to obtain one. He moved for a directed verdict of not guilty at the close of the evidence, claiming that the ordinance restricted freedom of worship in violation of the First Amendment which the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to the States. The motion was overruled and appellant was found guilty by the jury in the Mayor's Court. That judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of General Sessions for McCormick County and then by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. The case is here on appeal. Judicial Code, § 237 (a), 28 U.S.C. § 344 (a).