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Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton

United States Supreme Court
536 U.S. 150 (2002)


Facts

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (WBTSNY) (plaintiff) coordinated the preaching activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the United States and published Bibles and religious periodicals that were widely distributed. Wellsville, Ohio, Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc. (plaintiff) supervised the activities of approximately fifty-nine members in a part of Ohio that included the Village of Stratton (defendant). These members often went door-to-door distributing religious literature at no cost to anyone who wished to read it. A Village ordinance, however, prohibited canvassers and others from “going in and upon private residential property for the purpose of promoting any “cause” without first having obtained a permit from the Village mayor. WBTSNY did not apply for a permit in the Village of Stratton, but rather challenged the ordinance in federal district court as facially invalid on First Amendment grounds. The district court upheld the ordinance as constitutional, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

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Dissent (Rehnquist, C.J.)

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