• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that government statutes regulating speech must be narrowly drawn so that they do not unduly restrict freedom of expression.

Carl Kunz was a Baptist minister convicted of preaching on the New York City streets without a permit. Kunz, who had been accused of “scurrilous attacks on other religions” during earlier street preaching incidents, was denied a permit even though the ordinance contained no standards for determining the criteria for denying a permit. The Supreme Court judged the New York ordinance to be vague and overbroad, both constitutional defects, and reversed Kunz’s conviction. The Court found that the New York ordinance, which gave officials the authority to prevent people from speaking, constituted an unacceptable prior restraint on speech, in violation of the First Amendment. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson wrote the opinion for the 8-1 majority, with Justices Hugo L. Black and Felix Frankfurter concurring in the result only. Justice Robert Jackson dissented, stating the majority had missed the point of the case entirely because the facts indicated that the defendant had used profanity or “fighting words,” which were not entitled to free speech protection.Speech, freedom of;Kunz v. New York[Kunz v. New York]

Brandenburg v. Ohio

Feiner v. New York

Gitlow v. New York

Holmes, Oliver Wendell

Prior restraint

Schenck v. United States

Speech and press, freedom of

Categories: History