Tucker v. Texas

Tucker v. Texas

Infobox SCOTUS case
Litigants=Tucker v. Texas
ArgueDate=December 7
DecideDate=January 7
FullName=Tucker v. State of Texas
Holding=Free Exercise Clause upheld; an ordinance prohibiting distribution of religious literature or conditioning distribution upon a permit issued at the discretion of its owner violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

"Tucker v. Texas", 326 U.S. 517 (1946), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States that a statute making it an offense to distribute literature in government-owned town was invalid.

Facts of the case

Tucker was an ordained minister of the group known as Jehovah's Witnesses. In accordance with the practices of this group he called on people from door to door, presenting his religious views to those willing to listen, and distributes religious literature to those willing to receive it. In the course of his work, he went to the Hondo Navigation Village located in Medina County, Texas. The village is owned by the United States under a Congressional program which was designed to provide housing for persons engaged in National Defense activities. According to all indications the village was freely accessible and open to the public and had the characteristics of a typical American town. The Federal Public Housing Authority had placed the buildings in charge of a manager whose duty it was to rent the houses, collect the rents, and generally to supervise operations, subject to over-all control by the Authority. He ordered appellant to discontinue all religious activities in the village. Appellant refused. Later the manager ordered appellant to leave the village. Insisting that the manager had no right to suppress religious activities, appellant declined to leave, and his arrest followed. At the trial the manager testified that the controlling Federal agency had given him full authority to regulate the conduct of those living in the village, and that he did not allow preaching by ministers of any denomination without a permit issued by him in his discretion. He thought this broad authority was entrusted to him, at least in part, by a regulation, which the Authority's Washington office had allegedly promulgated. He testified that this regulation provided that no peddlers or hawkers could come into or remain in the village without getting permission from the manager.

Prior history

Tucker was charged in the Justice Court of Medina County, Texas, with violating Article 479, Chap. 3 of the Texas Penal Code which makes it an offense for any 'peddler or hawker of goods or merchandise' wilfully to refuse to leave premises after having been notified to do so by the owner or possessor thereof. The appellant urged in his defense that he was not peddler or hawker of merchandise, but a minister of the gospel engaged in the distribution of religious literature to willing recipients. He contended that to construe the Texas statute as applicable to his activities would, to that extent, bring it into conflict with the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of press and religion. His contention was rejected and he was convicted. On appeal to the Medina County Court, his Constitutional contention was again overruled.

Dissenting opinions

The CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice REED and Justice BURTON construe the record in this case as showing a conviction for refusing, at the request of its authorized agent, to leave premises which are owned by the United States and which have not been shown to be dedicated to general use by the public. They, therefore, would have upheld the conviction for the reasons given in the dissent in Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 , 66 S.Ct. 276


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