In 1977, the Court considered another compelled speech claim, this one brought by a New Hampshire couple who had three times been prosecuted for covering up the motto "Live Free or Die" on their New Hampshire license plate. The Maynards, also Jehovah's Witnesses, objected on religious grounds to the ideological message conveyed on the state license plates. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Burger enjoined enforcement against the Maynards of New Hampshire's law prohibiting the obscuring or defacing of license plates. The law, the Court said, compelled individuals to be "couriers for ideological messages" and "mobile billboards."
In 1980, in Pruneyard
Shopping Center vs Robins, the Supreme Court rejected the argument
of the owner of a California Shopping Center that a California Supreme
Court decision finding a state constitutional right of third persons
this case, high school students) to pass out political leaflets on the
shopping center grounds violated the federal Constitution's First
The owner argued, relying on Wooley and Barnette, that
property was being used in such a way as to suggest his endorsement of
a political message that he may not have agreed with. The Court
concluding under the circumstances of the case that no one was likely
conclude that the shopping center was a sponsor or an endorser of the
message being presented in the shopping center parking lot.
In 2006, in Rumsfield v Forum for Academic and
Institutional Rights, the Supreme Court considered the claim of
various law schools that the Solomon Amendment, which withheld federal
funds for schools discriminating against military recruiters, violated
their First Amendment rights. The schools argued, among other
things, that the law compelled them to support speech (i.e., military
recruiting on their premises that was inconsistent with their belief
that employers should not discriminate against homosexuals) with which
they disagreed. In a unanimous (8 to 0) decision, the Court
rejected the schools' arguments. Justice Roberts noted that the
law doesn't make the schools say anything (and in fact allows them to
disassociate themselves from the military recruiters' message by
organizing protests or boycotts) and regulates conduct more than it
Marie and Gathie Barnette, two of the petitioners in West Virgina v Barnette, a challenge to a West Virginia law requiring school children to salute the American flag.
2. How significant would you rate the government's interest in forcing school children to salute the flag?
3. What do you think of Justice Frankfurter's dissent in Barnette, arguing that the Court should only determine whether the State had a reasonable justification for its requirement?
4. Is anyone likely to take the Maynards' showing of an unobstructed "Live Free or Die" motto as an indication that they endorse that message?
5. Couldn't the Maynards disavow the objectionable motto by placing an "I-Don't-Believe-the-Message-Below" sign above the license plate?
6. If an Idaho citizen found the Idaho license plate motto "Famous Potatoes" to be silly, would he or she have a constitutional right to cover the motto, or does the right recognized in Wooley extend only to mottos found to be ideologically objectionable?
7. Would Pruneyard have been decided differently if California had compelled the owner of a stand-alone store to allow political leafletters to use his or her property?
8. Is the state's interest in allowing private citizens to use shopping centers for political expression considerably stronger than the state interest in Wooley, promoting a state motto on license plates?
9. In 1999, Louisiana enacted a law that allowed state residents to buy a license plate with the message "Choose Life" (see photo). Abortion rights organizations challenged the law on First Amendment grounds. The issues raised by the Louisiana case are very different than those presented in Wooley. Does the Louisiana "Choose Life" plate violate the First Amendment? (In July, 2003, a federal district judge ruled that Louisiana's system of speciality plates violated the First Amendment because it allows the anti-abortion plates but does not provide one for the opposite viewpoint.)
10. If the Solomon forbid law schools--upon pain of losing federal funding--from in any way protesting the presence on their campuses of military recruiters, would the law then violate the schools' First Amendment rights?