Cantwell v. Connecticut

PETITIONER:Newton D. Cantwell, Jesse L. Cantwell, and Russell D. Cantwell
RESPONDENT:Connecticut
LOCATION: Cassius Street

DOCKET NO.: 632
DECIDED BY: Hughes Court (1940-1941)
LOWER COURT: Connecticut Supreme Court

ARGUED: Mar 29, 1940
DECIDED: May 20, 1940

ADVOCATES:
Edwin S. Pickett – for the appellee and respondent
Francis A. Pallotti – for the appellee and respondent
Hayden C. Covington – for the appellants and petitioner

Facts of the case

Jesse Cantwell and his son were Jehovah’s Witnesses; they were proselytizing a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Connecticut. The Cantwells distributed religious materials by travelling door-to-door and by approaching people on the street. After voluntarily hearing an anti-Roman Catholic message on the Cantwells’ portable phonograph, two pedestrians reacted angrily. The Cantwells were subsequently arrested for violating a local ordinance requiring a permit for solicitation and for inciting a breach of the peace.

Question

Did the solicitation statute or the “breach of the peace” ordinance violate the Cantwells’ First Amendment free speech or free exercise rights?