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International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee

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Brief Fact Summary.

Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a nonprofit religious corporation, performs a ritual called sankirtan, which involves soliciting funds and distributing literature in public places. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey adopted a regulation forbidding within the terminals the repetitive solicitation of money or distribution of literature. ISKCON brought suit challenging the regulation.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Regulations prohibiting solicitation of funds in an airport are constitutional.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

A traditional public forum is property that has as a principal purpose the free exchange of ideas.

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Facts.

Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a nonprofit religious corporation, performs a ritual called sankirtan, which involves soliciting funds and distributing literature in public places. In 1988, the New York Port Authority, a government agency that owns and operates the three airports in metropolitan New York, adopted a regulation forbidding repetitive solicitation of funds or distribution of literature within airport terminals, but permitting solicitation and distribution on the sidewalks outside the terminal buildings. ISKCON filed suit, alleging that the regulation violated its speech rights.

Issue.

Is the Port Authority regulation forbidding within the terminals the repetitive solicitation of money constitutional per the First Amendment?

Held.

Yes, the Port Authority regulation forbidding within the terminals the repetitive solicitation of money is constitutional per the First Amendment.

Concurrence.

Justice O’Connor

The can on solicitation is reasonable. However, the regulation banning leafletting cannot be upheld as reasonable because leafletting does not pose the same kinds of problems presented by face-to-face solicitation. `

Justice Kennedy

The Court leaves the government with almost unlimited authority to restrict speech on its property by doing nothing more than articulating a non-speech-related purpose for the area.

Discussion.

The solicitation at issue here is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment. However, the government need not permit all forms of speech on property that it owns and controls. Where the government is acting as a proprietor, managing its internal operations, rather than acting as lawmaker with the power to regulate or license, its action will not be subjected to the heightened review to which its actions as a lawmaker may be subject.

Regulation of speech on government property that has traditionally been available for public expression is subject to the highest scrutiny. Such regulations survive only if they are narrowly drawn to achieve a compelling state interest. The second category of public property is the designated public forum, whether of a limited or unlimited character–property that the state has opened for expressive activity by part or all of the public. Regulation of such property is subject to the same limitations as that governing at traditional public forum. Finally, there is all remaining public property. Limitations on expressive activity conducted on this last category of property must survive only a much more limited review. The challenged regulation need only be reasonable, as long as the regulation is not an effort to suppress the speaker’s activity due to disagreement with the speaker’s view.

Airports have not historically been made available for speech activity. Thus, the restrictions here challenged need only satisfy a requirement of reasonableness. Solicitation is highly disruptive to business. Especially in an airport where travelers are weighed down by cumbersome baggage or in a hurry to catch a plane. Delays in this setting are particularly costly – a flight missed by only a few minutes can result in hours worth of subsequent inconvenience. Thus, the solicitation ban is reasonable.


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