Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Inc.

PETITIONER: Crown Kosher Super Market
LOCATION: District Court of Massachusetts

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 366 US 617 (1961)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1960 / Dec 08, 1960
DECIDED: May 29, 1961

Herbert B. Ehrmann - For the Appellees
Joseph H. Elcock, Jr. - For the Appellants

Facts of the case

The owners and a majority of the patrons of Crown Kosher Super Market are members of the Orthodox Jewish faith, which forbids shopping on the Sabbath, from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday. Crown Kosher Super Market had previously been open for business on Sundays, on which it conducted about one- third of its weekly business. In 1962, the Massachusetts’ Legislature enacted a statute forbidding shops to be open and doing any labor, business, or work on Sunday. The Crown Kosher Super Market argued this provision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since it does not respect their religious practices. The federal district court held that this provision is unconstitutional, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed and held that the provision does not prohibit the free exercise of religion.


Do statutes that require stores to close on Sundays violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not respecting the establishment of religion and prohibiting free exercise as applied to the states?

Media for Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1960 in Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1960 in Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 11, Gallagher, Chief of Police of the City of Springfield, Massachusetts, et al., Appellants, versus Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Incorporated, et al.

Mr. Elcock.

Joseph H. Elcock, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court, may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from a decision of a three-judge court for the District for the First District, relating to the Sunday Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so called.

The proceeding was held in the District Court for Massachusetts as a result of a hearing and a decree.

A decision of the court was rendered by two members of the court and a majority -- a majority decision entered by the court and a minority opinion by Justice McCarthy.

As far as the proceedings before the District Court are concerned, a complaint was filed by the petitioners alleging, in effect, that they conducted a Kosher Super Market in Springfield, Massachusetts, at which Kosher Super Market, they sold foods which had been approved by the rabbi, that they sold those foods for purposes of satisfying the religious requirements of the various customers of that particular store, that they held their store closed from sundown on Friday through Saturday and that they opened their store on Sunday.

Basically, the violation that was involved here related to the sale of foods by that Kosher Super Market on Sunday.

There were three cases initially in the Massachusetts Supreme Court against the manager of that market and as a result of convictions in those three cases, a declaratory judgment proceeding was brought in the District Court prior referred to.

As far as the--

William O. Douglas:

Do you think the fact that it was a Kosher market, rather than some other market and relevant here to the issues?

Joseph H. Elcock, Jr.:

To us, Your Honor, it has no relevance in the sense that this is a super market.

It sells-- the evidence will show that it sells foods which were approved by the rabbi.

It will also show that they sold foods which were not necessarily kosher foods.

To that extent, they went beyond what may well have been the requirements of a Kosher Super Market in the sense of selling only foods.

It will become significant from the point of view of the complainants, Your Honor, in the sense that they claim that in order to satisfy the religious requirements of their customers, it is necessary that they be able to make sales on Sunday.

To that extent, from their viewpoint, it does have a religious connotation in the sense that they claim that not by being prohibited from making any sales on Sunday that the religious rights of their customers are disturbed, as well as the religious rights of the officers and directors and stockholders of this particular corporation.

There were allegations and it has been admitted that the stockholders, the directors and the officers of this Crown Kosher Super Market were, in effect, obliged by the tenants of their religious beliefs to remain closed during those hours that I have referred to, that is from Sundown on Friday night through Saturday, through, at least until sundown on Saturday.

Thereafter, of course, they would be allowed to open.

So, we would say that, from our viewpoint, Your Honor, it is not significant or should not be significant that there is a religious connotation to at least some of the sales made by the Crown Kosher Super Market.

On the other hand Your Honor, as I say, the gravamen of the action would be, as far as I'm able to determine from the complaint, that the very fact that the Massachusetts statute here, obliges them to close on Sunday, interferes with their religious rights and they go one step further because the Massachusetts statutes, as they alleged and which, of course, is the knife from my viewpoint, because the Massachusetts statute is predicated upon what they believed to be a religious ground, they then say that under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that their religious rights are disturbed.

Of course, Your Honor, you're going --

Earl Warren:

Do you make a distinction between -- between religious rights and -- and religious observance?

The -- the point I make is -- is this, I am not quite clear how they allege that keeping open on Sunday interfered with their religious observances.

Joseph H. Elcock, Jr.:

As I understand it, Your Honor, it would be on this basis.

Ordinary markets in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may open six days a week and they are required to close on -- on Sunday.

They contend that they are obliged to close on Sunday because of the statute and because of their religious beliefs they are obliged to close on Saturday.

Thus it is argued, they are obliged to remain closed two days in the week, whereas, the ordinary market in a similar position, would be allowed to -- would be obliged to be closed on only one day of the week.

So --

Earl Warren:

Then, they suffer an economic loss rather than the loss of -- of religious --