by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

The Right to Witness

§ 13.01
Key point 13-01. The courts have affirmed the right of persons to disseminate religious literature and doctrine on a door-to-door basis, and in public places. This right may be limited in order to preserve public safety, health, order, and convenience. Strict safeguards, however, must attend any limitations.
1. Door-to-Door Witnessing

The Supreme Court repeatedly has affirmed the right of persons to solicit religious contributions, sell religious books and merchandise, and disseminate religious doctrine on a "door-to-door" basis.[1] See, e.g., Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (1943); Largent v. Texas, 318 U.S. 418 (1943); Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.S. 413 (1943); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). Municipal ordinances that condition the exercise of such a right upon the acquisition of a permit or license or upon the payment of a "tax" or fee generally have been found to be unconstitutional. ...

    a. specific guidelines exist for determining whether to grant or disallow a license or permit, and the guidelines remove all discretion from those officials who must evaluate applications
    b. guidelines only ensure public order, peace, health, safety, or convenience
    c. no less restrictive public remedies to protect the peace and order of the community are appropriate or available

Log In For Full Access

Interested in becoming a member? Learn more.

Table of contents

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.