Political and Civil Rights in the United States

By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: CONTROL OVER THE SPECIFIC MEDIA OF COMMUNICATION

A. STREETS, PARKS AND HALLS: THE RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY, CANVASSING AND PICKETING

KUNZ v. NEW YORK

Supreme Court of the United States, 1951 340 U.S. 290, 95 L. Ed.280, 71 S. Ct. 312

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

New York City has adopted an ordinance which makes it unlawful to hold public worship meetings on the streets without first obtaining a permit from the city police commissioner.1 Ap

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1
Section 435-7.0 of chapter 18 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York reads as follows:
"a. Public worship. -- It shall be unlawful for any person to be concerned or instrumental in collecting or promoting any assemblage of persons for public worship or exhortation, or to ridicule or denounce any form of religious belief, service or reverence, or to preach or expound atheism or agnosticism, or under any pretense therefor, in any street. A clergyman or minister of any denomination, however, or any person responsible to or regularly associated with any church or incorporated missionary society, or any lay-preacher, or lay-reader may conduct religious services, or any authorized representative of a duly incorporated organization devoted to the advancement of the principles of atheism or agnosticism may preach or expound such cause, in any public place or places specified in a permit therefor which may be granted and issued by the police commissioner. This section shall not be construed to prevent any congregation of the Baptist denomination from assembling in a proper place for the purpose of performing the rites of baptism, according to the ceremonies of that church.
"b. Interference with street services. -- It shall be unlawful for any person to disturb, molest or interrupt any clergyman, minister, missionary, lay-preacher or lay-reader, who shall be conducting religious services by authority of a permit, issued hereunder, or any minister or people who shall be performing the rite of baptism as permitted herein, nor shall any person commit any riot or disorder in any such assembly.
"c. Violations. -- Any person who shall violate any provision of this section, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars, or imprisonment for thirty days, or both."

This ordinance was previously challenged in People v. Smith, 263, N. Y. 255, 188 N. E. 745, appeal dismissed for want of a substantial federal question, Smith v. New York, 292 U. S. 606 ( 1934). Smith, who had not applied for a permit under the ordinance, argued that the regulation of religious speakers alone constituted an unreasonable classification. None of the questions involved in the instant appeal were presented in the previous case.

-652-

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