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Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

United States Supreme Court
315 U.S. 568 (1942)



Chaplinsky (defendant) was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Chaplinsky was distributing religious literature on a street corner. Several citizens complained to the City Marshal, Bowering, that Chaplinsky was denouncing all religions. Bowering responded that Chaplinsky was lawfully permitted to voice his opinion, but nevertheless warned Chaplinsky that the crowd was getting restless. After a disturbance occurred later, Chaplinsky was escorted by a police officer to the police station. On the way, Chaplinsky passed Bowering and called him a “racketeer” and a “fascist.” Chaplinsky admitted to uttering the offensive language in question. Chaplinsky was convicted by the State of New Hampshire (plaintiff) for violating a New Hampshire law prohibiting speech directed at a person on public streets that derides, offends or annoys others. Chaplinsky’s conviction was affirmed by the state supreme court, and he appealed to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the New Hampshire law violated the First Amendment.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Murphy, J.)

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