Braunfeld v. Brown

LOCATION: Braunfeld's furniture store

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 366 US 599 (1961)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1960
DECIDED: May 29, 1961

Facts of the case

Abraham Braunfeld owned a retail clothing and home furnishing store in Philadelphia. As an Orthodox Jew, he was prohibited by his faith from working on Saturday, the Sabbath. The Pennsylvania blue law only allowed certain stores to remain open for business on Sundays. Braunfeld's store was not one of those types allowed to be open. He challenged the law as a violation of the religious liberty clauses because he needed to be open six days a week for economic reasons and was prohibited from doing so by a tenet of his faith and the blue law.


Did the Pennsylvania blue law violate the First Amendment's protection of free exercise of religious beliefs?

Media for Braunfeld v. Brown

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1960 in Braunfeld v. Brown

Earl Warren:

Number 67, Abraham Braunfeld et al., Appellants, versus Albert N. Brown, Commissioner of Police of the City of Philadelphia et al.

Mr. Mann.

Theodore R. Mann:

May it please the Court.

I represent five Orthodox Jews.

As has been discussed in the earlier case, orthodox Jews close their business establishments from Friday evening until sun -- Saturday evening.

My clients are in businesses which do not specialize in kosher products so to speak but which deal with the general public at large or -- and they are in competition with other business selling similar items such clothing and shoes.

We are dealing here with a Pennsylvania statute which was just passed in the Fall of 1959 and which appears on page 2 of my brief.

It is a statute which is not aimed at an occupation as much as it is aimed at specific commodities.

It outlaws or proscribes the sale of specific commodities at retail.

My clients sell those commodities.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Mann, before you proceed, as a matter of information is the observance of Sabbath day of the -- the Sabbath confined along those who profess the Jewish Faith to Orthodox Jews' don't -- conservative Jews also to --

Theodore R. Mann:

Yes, sir.

I represent Orthodox Jews.

As a matter of fact the requirements of Sabbath observance are part of Judaism generally.

Potter Stewart:


Theodore R. Mann:

Conservative Judaism certainly is in pretty much the same category as Orthodox Judaism.

Potter Stewart:

And perhaps some other branches of Judaism.

Theodore R. Mann:

Reform Judaism, perhaps it might be said to a lesser extent.

That is a theological dispute that I'd rather not enter into.

I have included a certain amount of information on this subject in my brief in case the Court thinks it's relevant.

It is our position that --

Potter Stewart:

And did you -- do you know how many Orthodox Jews there are in Pennsylvania?

Theodore R. Mann:

In Pennsylvania, no, sir, I do not.

I have tried to find out.

In the United States, I think they professed to have about a million.

I have some information in my brief on that too, although there is no exact computation made.

As a matter of information, I think most of the Jewish groups objected to inclusion of such a question in a critical sentence I just mention that passing.

We assert that there has been a violation on a kind of this statute of the First Amendment on two separate grounds, of course, a violation of the Free Exercise Clause and a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

So far as the Free Exercise Clause is concerned it is our position that this kind of a statute puts to these kinds of appellants a very clear choice and this choice is in essence admitted by all parties to the specific proceedings, the choice of going out of business or at least giving up a very substantial amount of their income or giving up their faith or at least, very substantially compromising their faith.

This Court has said in Schneider versus New Jersey and Thornhill versus Alabama and in many cases, that when a party litigant walks into court complaining of an alleged abridgement of a First Amendment freedom, it is up to the court to a -- to be -- stood to examine the effect of the legislation.