Heffron v. International Society For Krishna Consciousness, Inc, 80-795

Decision Date22 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 80-795,80-795
Citation69 L.Ed.2d 298,452 U.S. 640,101 S.Ct. 2559
PartiesMichael HEFFRON, Secretary and Manager of the Minnesota State Agricultural Society Board of Managers, et al., Petitioners, v. INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS, INC., et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

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. 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 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. 648-649.

(b) The State's interest in maintaining the orderly movement of the crowd at 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. 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. 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. 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 may also arrange for a booth and distribute and sell literature and solicit funds from that location on the fairgrounds. Pp. 654-655.

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

Kent G. Harbison, St. Paul, Minn., for petitioners.

Laurence H. Tribe, Cambridge, Mass., for respondents.

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented for review is whether a State, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, may require a religious organization desiring to distribute and sell religious literature and to solicit donations at a state fair to conduct those activities only at an assigned location within the fairgrounds even though application of the rule limits the religious practices of the organization.

I

Each year, the Minnesota Agricultural Society (Society), a public corporation organized under the laws of Minnesota, see Minn.Stat. § 37.01 (1980), operates a State Fair on a 125-acre state-owned tract located in St. Paul, Minn.1 The Fair is conducted for the purpose of "exhibiting . . . the agricultural, stock-breeding, horticultural, mining, mechanical, industrial, and other products and resources of the state, including proper exhibits and expositions of the arts, human skills, and sciences." Ibid. The Fair is a major public event and attracts visitors from all over Minnesota as well as from other parts of the country. During the past five years, the average total attendance for the 12-day Fair has been 1,320,000 persons. The average daily attendance on weekdays has been 115,000 persons and on Saturdays and Sundays 160,000.

The Society is authorized to make all "bylaws, ordinances, and rules, not inconsistent with law, which it may deem necessary or proper for the government of the fair grounds. . . ." Minn.Stat. § 37.16 (1980). Under this authority, the Society promulgated Minnesota State Fair Rule 6.05 which provides in relevant part that

"[s]ale or distribution of any merchandise, including printed or written material except under license issued [by] the Society and/or from a duly-licensed location shall be a misdemeanor."

As Rule 6.05 is construed and applied by the Society, "all persons, groups or firms which desire to sell, exhibit or distribute materials during the annual State Fair must do so only from fixed locations on the fairgrounds." 2 Although the Rule does not prevent organizational representatives from walking about the fairgrounds and communicating the orga- nization's views with fair patrons in face-to-face discussions,3 it does require that any exhibitor conduct its sales, distribution, and fund solicitation operations from a booth rented from the Society. Space in the fairgrounds is rented to all comers in a nondiscriminatory fashion on a first-come, first-served basis with the rental charge based on the size and location of the booth.4 The Rule applies alike to nonprofit, charitable, and commercial enterprises.5

One day prior to the opening of the 1977 Minnesota State Fair, respondents International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. (ISKCON), an international religious society espousing the views of the Krishna religion, and Joseph Beca, head of the Minneapolis ISKCON temple, filed suit against numerous state officials seeking a declaration that Rule 6.05, both on its face and as applied, violated respondents' rights under the First Amendment, and seeking injunctive relief prohibiting enforcement of the Rule against ISKCON and its members. Specifically, ISKCON asserted that the Rule would suppress the practice of Sankirtan, one of its religious rituals, which 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.6 The trial court entered temporary orders to govern the conduct of the parties during the 1977 Fair.7 When that event concluded and after a hearing, the trial court granted the state officials' motion for summary judgment, upholding the constitutionality of Rule 6.05. Relying on the reasoning in International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Evans, 440 F.Supp. 414 (SD Ohio 1977), the court found that the State's interest "in providing all fair goers and concessionaries with adequate and equal access to each other and in providing a minimum of- congestion on the fairgrounds" was sufficient to sustain Rule 6.05's limitations as applied to respondents.8 The court, however, provided that respondents were free to "[r]oam throughout those areas of the fairgrounds generally open to the public for the purpose of discussing with others their religious beliefs."

On appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, holding that Rule 6.05, as applied to respondents, unconstitutionally restricted the Krishnas' religious practice of Sankirtan. 299 N.W.2d 79 (1980). The court rejected the...

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