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A substantial relation is necessary but not sufficient to ensure that the government adequately considers the potential for First Amendment harms before requiring that organizations reveal sensitive information about their members and supporters. Where exacting scrutiny applies, the challenged requirement must be narrowly tailored to the interest it promotes, even if it is not the least restrictive means of achieving that end.
California law empowered the Attorney General to make rules and regulations regarding the registration and renewal process. Pursuant to this regulatory authority, the Attorney General required charities renewing their registrations to file copies of their Internal Revenue Service Form 990, along with any attachments and schedules. Petitioners, which were two tax-exempt charities soliciting contributions in California, filed copies of their Form 990 with the Attorney General. However, to preserve their donors’ anonymity, the petitioners declined to file unredacted Schedule Bs, and they had, until recently, faced no consequences for noncompliance. In 2010, the State increased its enforcement of charities’ Schedule B disclosure obligations, and the Attorney General ultimately threatened the petitioners with suspension of their registrations and fines for noncompliance. The petitioners each responded by filing suit in District Court, alleging that the compelled disclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights and the rights of their donors. In each case, the District Court granted preliminary injunctive relief prohibiting the Attorney General from collecting the petitioners' Schedule B information. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded, reasoning that Circuit precedent required rejection of the petitioners' facial challenge. Reviewing the petitioners' as-applied claims under an “exacting scrutiny” standard, the panel narrowed the District Court's injunction, and it allowed the Attorney General to collect the petitioners' Schedule Bs so long as they were not publicly disclosed. On remand, the District Court held bench trials in both cases, after which it entered judgment for the petitioners and permanently enjoined the Attorney General from collecting their Schedule Bs. Applying exacting scrutiny, the District Court held that disclosure of Schedule Bs was not narrowly tailored to the State's interest in investigating charitable misconduct. The Ninth Circuit again vacated the District Court's injunctions, and this time reversed the judgments and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the Attorney General. The Ninth Circuit held that the District Court had erred by imposing a narrow tailoring requirement. Certiorari was granted.
Should the disclosure of Schedule Bs be narrowly tailored to the State’s interest in investigating charitable misconduct, failing which, would render the requirement unconstitutional on its face?
The Court held that while exacting scrutiny under the First Amendment did not require that disclosure regimes be the least restrictive means of achieving their ends, it did require that they be narrowly tailored to the government’s asserted interest. According to the Court, California's blanket demand that charitable organizations disclose their Schedule Bs to the California Attorney General, Cal. Code Regs., tit. 11, § 301 (2020), was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment because Schedule B collection did not form an integral part of the State's fraud detection efforts, and the administrative interest did not justify the disclosure.