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U.S. Supreme Court

Heffron v. Soc'y for Krishna Consciousness, 452 U.S. 640 (1981)

Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness

No. 80-795

Argued April 20, 1981

Decided June 22, 1981

452 U.S. 640


A rule (Rule 6.05) of the Minnesota Agricultural Society (Society), a Minnesota public corporation that operates the annual state fair, provides that sale or distribution of any merchandise, including printed or written material, except from a duly licensed location on the fairgrounds shall be a misdemeanor. As Rule 6.05 is construed and applied by the Society, all persons, groups, or firms desiring to sell, exhibit, or distribute materials during the fair must do so only from fixed locations. However, the Rule does not prevent organizational representatives from walking about the fairgrounds and communicating the organization's views to fair patrons in face-to-face discussions. Space in the fairgrounds is rented in a nondiscriminatory fashion on a first-come, first-served basis, and Rule 6.05 applies alike to nonprofit, charitable, and commercial enterprises. Respondents, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. (ISKCON), an organization espousing the views of the Krishna religion, and the head of one of its temples filed suit in a Minnesota state court against state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that Rule 6.05, on its face and as applied, violated their First Amendment rights. ISKCON asserted that the Rule suppressed the practice of Sankirtan, a religious ritual that enjoins its members to go into public places to distribute or sell religious literature and to solicit donations for the support of the Krishna religion. The trial court upheld the constitutionality of Rule 6.05, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed.

Held: Rule 6.05, requiring members of ISKCON who desire to practice Sankirtan at the state fair to confine their distribution, sales, and solicitation activities to a fixed location, is a permissible restriction on the place and manner of communicating the views of the Krishna religion. Pp. 452 U. S. 647-655.

(a) Rule 6.05 is not based upon the content or subject matter of speech, since it applies evenhandedly to all persons or organizations,

Page 452 U. S. 641

whether commercial or charitable, who wish to distribute and sell written materials or to solicit funds. Nor is the Rule which involves a method of allocating space on a first-come, first-served basis -- open to the kind of arbitrary application that is inherently inconsistent with a valid time, place, and manner regulation as having the potential for becoming a means of suppressing a particular point of view. Pp. 452 U. S. 648-649.

(b) The State's interest in maintaining the orderly movement of the crowd at the fair is sufficient to satisfy the requirement that a time, place, or manner restriction must serve a significant governmental interest. The significance of that interest must be assessed in light of the characteristic nature and function of the particular forum involved. Because the fairgrounds comprise a relatively small area where an enormous variety of goods, services, entertainment, and other matters of interest are exhibited to large crowds on a temporary basis, the State's interest in the orderly movement and control of such an assembly is a substantial consideration. Pp. 452 U. S. 649-651.

(c) The justification for Rule 6.05 cannot be measured solely on the basis of the disorder that would result from granting members of ISKCON an exemption from the Rule. Inclusion of peripatetic solicitation as part of a church ritual does not entitle church members to solicitation rights in a public forum superior to those of members of other religious groups that raise money but do not purport to ritualize the process. And if Rule 6.05 is an invalid restriction on ISKCON's activities, it is no more valid with respect to other social, political, or charitable organizations seeking to distribute information, sell wares, or solicit funds at the fair. Pp. 452 U. S. 651-654.

(d) Similarly, Rule 6.05 cannot be viewed as an unnecessary regulation on the ground that the State could avoid the threat to its interest posed by ISKCON by less restrictive means, such as penalizing disorder, limiting the number of solicitors, or imposing more narrowly drawn restrictions on the location and movement of ISKCON's representatives. Since the inquiry must involve all other organizations that would be entitled to distribute, sell, or solicit if the booth rule may not be enforced with respect to ISKCON, it is improbable that such alternative means would deal adequately with the problems posed by the large number of distributors and solicitors that would be present on the fairgrounds. P. 452 U. S. 654.

(e) Alternative forums for the expression of respondents' protected speech exist despite the effects of Rule 6.05. The Rule does not prevent ISKCON from practicing Sankirtan anywhere outside the fairgrounds, nor does it exclude ISKCON from the fairgrounds. Its members may mingle with the crowd and orally propagate their views, and ISKCON

Page 452 U. S. 642

may also arrange for a booth and distribute and sell literature and solicit funds from that location on the fairgrounds. Pp. 452 U. S. 654-655.

299 N.W.2d 79, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 452 U. S. 656. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 452 U. S. 663.

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