Home > JWs vs. the World > Religious Group May Solicit, Supreme Court Rules

Religious Group May Solicit, Supreme Court Rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that an ordinance requiring Jehovah’s Witnesses or other door-to-door advocates for religious or political causes to get a permit violates free-speech rights.

The high court ruled for a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, a nonprofit publisher of church literature, in striking down the law regulating uninvited peddling and solicitation.

The justices, by a 8-1 vote, ruled the ordinance in the tiny village of Stratton, Ohio, infringed on the rights of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a faith whose members go from house to house speaking about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The decision added to a number of Supreme Court rulings in the 1930s and 1940s that the Jehovah’s Witnesses won on First Amendment issues.

Justice John Paul Stevens said for the court majority that the law, as it applies to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech and the distribution of handbills violated First Amendment free-speech protections.

The law at issue covered “canvassers, solicitors, peddlers (or) hawkers” who go to private homes for the purpose of “advertising, promoting, selling and/or explaining any product, service, organization or cause.”

Individuals first must register with the city, providing their name and address, their cause, why they were canvassing, which homes they intended to go to and how long they planned to solicit.

A permit would be provided unless the mayor determined the applicant failed to complete the form, provided fraudulent information, made false statements or misrepresentations while canvassing, violated any laws or engaged in trespassing.

The permits must be displayed upon demand by any resident.

Individuals were allowed to go door-to-door from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., so long as the owner of a residence had not filed a “No Solicitation Form” with the city and had not posted a “No Solicitation Sign” on the property.

While the “No Solicitation Form” listed several organizations by name, the only religious group cited was the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Stevens said a U.S. appeals court was wrong in upholding the law. He said the high court for more than 50 years has, on First Amendment grounds, invalidated restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

He said the ordinances applied to a significant number of noncommercial canvassers promoting a wide variety of causes.

Stevens rejected the village’s argument that the ordinance was valid because it protects the privacy of residents and prevents fraud or other types of crime.

He said it seemed unlikely the lack of permit would stop criminals from knocking on doors and there was no evidence of a special crime problem related to such solicitation.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was the lone dissenter. He said the ruling deprived residents of the degree of “accountability and safety” the permit requirement provided.

Categories: JWs vs. the World
  1. Tony
    August 20th, 2012 at 18:02 | #1

    Ewwww. I feel so icky reading that 2nd thing. I can’t belveie they have the gall to even make comments about that. What’s next, are they going to tell people how to move their bowels and what deodorant to wear? Gross (but consistent with the God of the Old Testament).

  2. type at home
    October 2nd, 2009 at 13:54 | #2

    Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

  3. D
    September 22nd, 2007 at 00:00 | #3

    The Supreme Court has already ruled that your walkway that leads to your door is NOT private property but public property.

    See United States Vs. Toben and learn something!

  4. stan
    June 14th, 2007 at 21:26 | #4

    Hey i got an idea you are soo bothered by people coming to your door…go to the police department get a no soliciting sign and shut the hell up

  5. Ber
    April 19th, 2006 at 03:22 | #5

    Yes you should be able to have the right to go from door to door. On the other hand I own a piece of land and a house which I have paid for and pay taxes on it and I though I had the right not to be annoyed by you comming to my door.

    Apparently you right contradicts mine, so who has the rigth to what????

  6. Sam
    January 12th, 2006 at 01:40 | #6

    Well i have been studying this case in one of my classes adn i think that even though the jehovahs wit. should get over it and just try for a permitt which they never did so they were never denid it, but i also believe that the law at hand was way to broad and that because of that it is unconstitutional. Under this law anyone, including tricker treaters would need to get permits, or even just to go next door to ask for some sugar. Under this law all of that is not allowed unless you have a permit. I believe this could have been a realy good law but it was not CLOSE to as detailed as it should have been, so i think the supreme court made the correct decision,

  7. Ber
    January 3rd, 2006 at 21:25 | #7

    Do you call going from door to door-annoying people “earning a living”?

    What about me, don’t I have the right not be have you coming to my property annoying me?

    Sure you have the right of free speech. Don’t I also have the right of privacy on my own property?

    You were not very clear in you post, but I gather only jw’s have rights, right?

  8. rel
    January 3rd, 2006 at 20:18 | #8

    “earning a honest lving by placing illegal laws”???????????????????????????????

    “Thanks to the watchtower group i now go ito cities and tell them they are violating my rights by not allowing me to go door to door until i get a permit that says i can exercise my right of free speech”???????????????????????????????

    “make cities stop these illegal laws”???????????????????????????????

    “Best of luck out there in your door to door living”???????????????????????????????

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