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Panhandling and the First Amendment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today struck down Michigan's c.1929 statute against "begging" in Speet v. Schuette, No. 12-2213.  The Supreme Court has held that various forms of solicitation are protected speech.  It has also upheld various restrictions on solicitation.

CJLF did some work in this area 20 years ago.  We filed an amicus brief in International Society of Krishna Consciousness v. Lee (1992).  The Supreme Court allowed the New York airports to forbid solicitation by the Hare Krishnas, although in a parallel case the Court struck down a prohibition against handing out literature.  The latter didn't matter, of course, as it was all really about the money.

The opinion of the Court in that case was based on a conclusion that the airport was not a public forum.  Justice Kennedy thought it was, but he thought that in-person solicitation for the immediate payment of money was not protected speech.  That was also the position of our brief.  To date, however, there still is no Supreme Court precedent on point.

Some of our friends on the other side of the aisle think it is really important to let people confront others on the street and ask for money.  They also think it is awful when people don't want to go downtown and instead go to suburban shopping malls which, as private property, can kick the bums out.  They don't seem to see any connection.

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