Collin v. Smith Case Brief

Summary of Collin v. Smith

Facts:

Village ordinance made it a misdemeanor to disseminate any material promoting and inciting racial or religious hatred. The ordinance was passed in response to a Nazi group that planned to peacefully demonstrate for 30 minutes in front of the Skokie village hall.

Issue:

Can a city ban racist speech?

Holding:

No, the city can’t ban racist speech.

Reasoning:

The city says that it doesn’t think the demonstration will cause any violence from onlookers. Therefore, there is no hostile audience (no Brandenburgand Feiner). Also, no fighting words (Chaplinsky).

There is no interest in prohibiting emotional trauma on resident holocaust survivors. Any shock is due to the content of the ideas expressed. Ideas can’t be suppressed simply because they are offensive to some hearers.

The residents can simply avoid village hall for 30 minutes on Sunday.

Judgment:

Statute is unconstitutional.



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