Poulos v. New Hampshire
345 U.S. 395 (1953)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Poulos v. New Hampshire, 345 U.S. 395 (1953)

Poulos v. New Hampshire

No. 341

Argued February 3, 1953

Decided April 27, 1953

345 U.S. 395


1. A city ordinance forbade the holding of a religious meeting in a public park without a license. The State Supreme Court construed it as leaving to the licensing officials no discretion as to the granting of licenses, no power to discriminate, and no control over speech, and as calling merely for the adjustment of the unrestrained exercise of religions with the reasonable comfort and convenience of the whole city. Held: as thus construed, the ordinance does not violate the principles of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 345 U. S. 402-408.

(a) Appellant's attack on the ordinance as applied to him, on the ground that it was repugnant to the principles of the First Amendment, and a determination of its validity by the State Supreme Court, required this Court to take jurisdiction on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2). P. 345 U. S. 402.

(b) The principles of the First Amendment are not to be treated as a promise that everyone with opinions or beliefs to express may gather around him at any public place and at any time a group for discussion or instruction. P. 345 U. S. 405.

(c) Kunz v. New York,340 U. S. 290, and Saia v. New York,334 U. S. 558, distinguished. Pp. 345 U. S. 406-408.

2. Having been arbitrarily and unlawfully denied a license, appellant proceeded to hold a religious meeting in a public park without a license and was convicted and fined for a violation of the ordinance. The State Supreme Court held that the proper state remedy for wrongful denial of the license was by certiorari to review the unlawful action of the licensing officials, not by holding public religious services in the park without a license and then defending because the refusal of the license was arbitrary. Held: the conviction did not violate appellant's rights under the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 345 U. S. 408-414.

Page 345 U. S. 396

(a) It cannot be said that failure of officials to act in accordance with state law, redressable by state judicial procedures, are state acts violative of the Federal Constitution. P. 345 U. S. 409.

(b) Nor can it be said that a State's requirement that redress for unlawful denial of the license be sought through appropriate judicial procedure violates due process. P. 345 U. S. 409.

(c) Royall v. Virginia,116 U. S. 572; Cantwell v. Connecticut,310 U. S. 296; and Thomas v. Collins,323 U. S. 516, distinguished. Pp. 345 U. S. 410-414.

(d) The Constitution does not require approval of the violation of a reasonable requirement for a license to speak in public parks because an official error occurred in refusing a proper application. P. 345 U. S. 414.

97 N.H. 352, 88 A.2d 860, affirmed.

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