The National Socialist Party of America applied for a permit application for a half-hour march that would involve around 50 demonstrators wearing uniforms and carrying banners featuring statements such as “White Free Speech” in Skokie. The NSPA and its leader, Frank Collin, brought a court action to challenge the Skokie ordinances on First Amendment grounds.
Government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content under the First Amendment.
In the late 1970s, the National Socialist Party of America chose Skokie for their demonstration because the town included a large Jewish population, including thousands of survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe. In response, the village of Skokie enacted ordinances to prohibit demonstrations such as the one planned by NSPA. They included an establishment of a permit system for parades, prohibition of dissemination of materials within Skokie that promotes and incites hatred.
Does the First Amendment protect the activity – demonstrations with people wearing uniforms and carrying banners featuring statements such as “White Free Speech?”
The Village argues that the content criminalized by the ordinance is totally lacking in social content and consists of false statements of fact. However, there is no such thing as a false idea under the First Amendment. However precious an opinion may seem, the Court depends for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of other ideas. The Village also contends that the Nazi march with display of uniforms will create a substantial evil that it has a right to prohibit. However, assuming that specific individuals could initiate a tort action under this theory to recover damages and that a First Amendment defense would not bar this action, it is a different matter to criminalize protected First Amendment conduct in anticipation of such results.