TWO GUYS V. MCGINLEY, 366 U. S. 582 (1961)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Two Guys v. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582 (1961)

Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown, Inc. v. McGinley

No. 36

Argued December 8, 1960

Decided May 29, 1961

366 U.S. 582


Appellant, a corporation operating a large discount department store located on a highway in a suburban section of Lehigh County, Pa., sued in a Federal District Court to enjoin enforcement of certain Pennsylvania Sunday Closing Laws, claiming that they were unconstitutional and that the County District Attorney was discriminating against it. One was a 1939 statute which prohibited all worldly employment or business on Sunday, with narrowly drawn exceptions, on penalty of a fine of $4 or 6 days' imprisonment. The other was a supplementary statute enacted in 1959 which forbade the retail sale on Sunday of 20 specified commodities, on penalty of a fine of up to $100 for the first offense and up to $200 for subsequent offenses within a year or imprisonment for 30 days in default thereof. There were many other Pennsylvania Sunday Laws which prohibited specific activities on Sundays or limited them to certain hours, places or conditions.


1. Since the relief sought was prospective only, the term of office of the District Attorney was about to expire, and appellant's employees could defend against any pending prosecutions on the ground of unconstitutional discrimination, the District Court did not err in refusing to exercise its injunctive powers at that time against alleged discriminatory enforcement by the County District Attorney. Pp. 366 U. S. 588-589.

2. The District Court did not abuse its discretion in declining to pass on the constitutionality of the 1939 statute, on the grounds that there was no imminent threat of appellant being prosecuted under it and that there was a substantial unsettled question of Pennsylvania law as to whether it had been superseded by the 1959 Act as to the specific commodities covered by the latter. P. 366 U. S. 589.

3. The District Court did not abuse its equity power in refusing to continue a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the 1939 statute against appellant, since there was no imminent threat of prosecution. P. 366 U. S. 589.

Page 366 U. S. 583

4. The 1959 Act does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. McGowan v. Maryland, ante, p. 366 U. S. 420. Pp. 366 U. S. 589-592.

5. Since appellant alleges only economic injury to itself, it has no standing to raise the question whether the statute here involved prohibits the free exercise of religion; but it does have standing to raise the question whether it is a law respecting an establishment of religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment. McGowan v. Maryland, supra. P. 366 U. S. 592.

6. In the light of a careful examination of the entirety of the present legislation, the relevant judicial characterizations, and, particularly, the legislative history leading to the passage of the 1959 Act here involved, that Act is not a law respecting an establishment of religion within the meaning of the First Amendment. McGowan v. Maryland supra. Pp. 366 U. S. 592-598.

7. This Court rejects appellant's contention that the State has other means at its disposal to accomplish its secular purpose that would not even remotely or incidentally give state aid to religion. McGowan v. Maryland, supra. P. 366 U. S. 598.

179 F.Supp. 944 affirmed.

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