CourtSpeak: Murdock v. Pennsylvania Religious Rights Case (1943)

First Amendment Read more from
Chapter The Stone Court (1941–46)

Justice William O. Douglas (majority): “The taxes imposed by this ordinance can hardly help but be as severe and telling in their impact on the freedom of the press and religion as the ‘taxes on knowledge’ at which the First Amendment was partly aimed. They may indeed operate even more subtly. Itinerant evangelists moving throughout a state or from state to state would feel immediately the cumulative effect of such ordinances as they become fashionable. The way of the religious dissenter has long been hard. But if the formula of this type of ordinance is approved, a new device for the suppression of religious minorities will have been found. This method of disseminating religious beliefs can be crushed and closed out by the sheer weight of the toll or tribute which is exacted town by town, village by village. The spread of religious ideas through personal visitations by the literature ministry of numerous religious groups would be stopped.”


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