Follett v. Town of McCormick

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Follett v. Town of McCormick
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 11, 1944
Decided March 27, 1944
Full case name Follett v. Town of McCormick, S.C.
Citations 321 U.S. 573 (more)
64 S. Ct. 717; 88 L. Ed. 938; 1944 U.S. LEXIS 902; 152 A.L.R. 317
Holding
people who earn their living by selling or distributing religious materials should not be required to pay the same licensing fees and taxes as those who sell or distribute non-religious materials.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Douglas
Concurrence Reed, joined by Murphy
Dissent Roberts, Frankfurter, Jackson

Follett v. Town of McCormick, 321 U.S. 573 (1944),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that people who earn their living by selling or distributing religious materials should not be required to pay the same licensing fees and taxes as those who sell or distribute non-religious materials.

Facts of the case[edit]

Follett was convicted of violating an ordinance of the town of McCormick, South Carolina which provided: '... the following license on business, occupation and professions to be paid by the person or persons carrying on or engaged in such business, occupation or professions within the corporate limits of the Town of McCormick, South Carolina: Agents selling books, per day $1.00, per year $15.00.' Appellant is a Jehovah's Witness and has been certified by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society as 'an ordained minister of Jehovah God to preach the gospel of God's kingdom under Christ Jesus.' He is a resident of McCormick, South Carolina, where he went from house to house distributing certain books. He obtained his living from the money received; he had no other source of income. He claimed that he merely offered the books for a 'contribution'. But there was evidence that he 'offered to and did sell the books'. Admittedly he had no license from the town and refused to obtain one.

Prior history[edit]

At his trial, Follett moved for a directed verdict of not guilty at the close of the evidence, claiming that the ordinance restricted freedom of worship in violation of the First Amendment which the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to the States. The motion was overruled and appellant was found guilty by the jury in the Mayor's Court. That judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of General Sessions for McCormick County and then by the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Decision of the court[edit]

Majority opinion[edit]

Justice Douglas delivered the opinion of the Court.

Concurring opinions[edit]

In his concurring opinion, Justice Frank Murphy expressed reservations about the power to axe essentially religious activities.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 321 U.S. 573 Full text of the opinion courtesy of Findlaw.com.