Citation. 468 U.S. 288,104 S. Ct. 3065,82 L. Ed. 2d 221,1984 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.
A National Park Service regulation banning camping in certain parks was held by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) not to violate the First Amendment when applied to prohibit demonstrators from sleeping in Lafayette Park and the Mall.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A message may be delivered by conduct that is intended to be communicative and that, in context, would reasonably be understood by the viewer as communicative. Symbolic expression of this kind may be forbidden or regulated if the conduct itself may constitutionally be regulated, if the regulation is narrowly drawn to further a substantial governmental interest and if the interest is unrelated to the suppression of speech.
In 1982, the Park Service issued a renewable permit to the Respondent, Community for Creative Non-Violence (Respondent), to conduct a wintertime demonstration in Lafayette Park and the Mall for the purpose of demonstrating about the plight of the homeless. The permit authorized the erection of symbolic tent cities. The Park Service, however, denied Respondent’s request that the demonstrators be permitted to sleep in the tents. Respondent filed this action to prevent the application of the anti-camping regulations to the proposed demonstration.
Whether a National Park Service regulation banning camping in certain parks violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) when applied to prohibit demonstrators from sleeping in Lafayette Park and the Mall?
No. Judgment of the lower court reversed. The regulation forbidding sleeping is defensible as both a time, place or manner restriction and as a regulation of symbolic conduct. The requirement that the regulation be content neutral is clearly met. The Park Service’s decision to permit non-sleeping demonstrations does not impugn the camping prohibition as a valuable, but perhaps imperfect protection to the parks. The Park Service regulation is necessary. Further the Park Service has the authority to judge how to protect the park lands. Therefore, the National Park Service regulation banning camping in certain parks does not violate the First Amendment of the Constitution when applied to prohibit demonstrators from sleeping in Lafayette Park and the Mall.
The proper starting point for analysis in this case is the recognition that the Respondents’ speech is symbolic speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The regulations as applied to Respondent, fails to satisfy the time, place or manner standards. The Supreme Court should have subjected the Government’s restrictive policy to something more than minimal scrutiny.
This case illustrates that symbolic speech can be regulated by the government as long as the regulation is narrowly drawn to further a substantial governmental interest and if the interest is unrelated to the suppression of speech.