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 ...

    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

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