Legal Principle at Issue
Whether a state, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, may confine religious organizations wishing to sell and distribute religious literature at a state fair to an assigned location within the fairgrounds.
Reversed and remanded. Petitioning party received a favorable disposition.
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.