Marsh v. Alabama

326 U.S. 501, 66 S. Ct. 276 (1946)



The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.


Defendant was convicted of having remained on the premises of another after having been warned not to do so after she refused to leave a sidewalk in a town where she was handing out religious literature. The town had a business section with shops and sidewalks as well as residential neighborhoods. There was nothing in its appearance to distinguish the town from any other town, except that the title to the town property belonged to a private corporation. Defendant claimed that the imposition of criminal punishment on her for distributing religious literature on the premises of a company-owned town violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


Can the managers of a company-owned town restrict religious freedom?




Whether a corporation or a municipality owned or possessed the town the public had an identical interest in the functioning of the community. The managers of a company-owned town could not curtail the liberty of press and religion of its public consistently with the purposes of the constitutional guarantees and that a state statute which enforced such actions by criminally punishing those who attempted to distribute religious literature violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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