Heffron v. International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.

RESPONDENT: International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.
LOCATION: Highway 80 and Nelson Road

DOCKET NO.: 80-795
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Minnesota Supreme Court

CITATION: 452 US 640 (1981)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1981

Kent G. Harbison - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Laurence H. Tribe - Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

A Minnesota law allowed the Minnesota Agricultural Society to devise rules to regulate the annual state fair in St. Paul. Minnesota State Fair Rule 6.05 required organizations wishing to sell or distribute goods and written material to do so from an assigned location on the fairgrounds. In other words, walking vendors and solicitors were not allowed. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness challenged the rule, arguing that it restricted the ability of its followers to freely exercise their religious beliefs at the state fair.


May a state, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, confine religious organizations wishing to sell and distribute religious literature at a state fair to an assigned location within the fairgrounds?

Media for Heffron v. International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1981 in Heffron v. International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Mr. Harbison.

Kent G. Harbison:

Thank you, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

My name is Kent Harbison and I represent the petitioners in this case, those Minnesota officials charged with the responsibility of managing the annual Minnesota State Fair.

The question before this Court is whether that State Fair, consistent with the First Amendment, may enforce a rule that essentially provides that all those persons or organizations who participate in the annual affair who desire to sell products, solicit monetary donations, or distribute literature or any other materials, whether it be flags, flowers, or whatever, may do so, but only from rented booths or similar fixed locations on the ground.

This case began in August of 1977 when the respondents, the Krishna Society, commenced a lawsuit in the state district court and obtained a temporary restraining order from that court enjoining the fair from enforcing that rule as it applies to them during that year's fair.

The restraining order, however, also enjoined the Krishnas themselves from selling any of these items that I've mentioned on a peripatetic basis throughout the fairgrounds.

In other words, the effect of that restraining order was to say, the state fair cannot require these respondents to engage in these activities only at a booth, but they must be permitted to do it throughout the fairgrounds.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Harbison, does the record show what happened in succeeding years?

Kent G. Harbison:

Since that restraining order?

Harry A. Blackmun:

You spoke of the 1977 fair.

What about '78, '79, '80?

Kent G. Harbison:

Your Honor, the restraining order applied to the '77 fair.

In 1978, just before the 1978 fair, the state district court granted summary judgment in favor of the state fair.

Therefore, the booth rule was applied during the 1978 fair because the state had received a favorable decision.

That was then appealed by the respondents to the Minnesota Supreme Court which reversed that decision in a 5-to-3 opinion.

That decision did not come down until, as I recall it, just before the 1980 fair.

This court then accepted the case to review it in January of this year.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, let me ask specifically, did the Krishna group have a booth in '78, '79, or '80, and did they solicit at all on the grounds during those years?

Kent G. Harbison:

Your Honor, they did not have a booth and the record doesn't indicate whether or not they solicited during the '78 or '79 or '80 fairs, in part because the record, the trial court record was closed at that time.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Harbison, following up on Justice Blackmun's question, at pages 35 and 36 of your brief, at the bottom of the page you make the statement,

"in fact, even under current state fair policy, Krishnas could proselytize among and speak with fairgoers and then direct interested donors or purchasers to their booth. "

Now, does that represent a change in the regulation or does that represent your definition of proselytize as opposed to solicit?

The words "proselytize" and "solicit" have been used kind of interchangeably and confusingly, given all the court opinions and briefs in the case.

Kent G. Harbison:

I'll attempt to see if I can add some definition to that.

The policy has always been, not just at that time or even now, under the booth rule... and that's the rule we're talking about here... that the state fair would not try to prevent anyone from engaging in oral conversations, and the phrase "proselytizing", the way I've intended to use it in the brief and I think the way the Minnesota Supreme Court viewed it, meant the practice of talking to someone and trying to convert them to a particular group's religious or political beliefs.

That statement on pages 35 and 36 is not meant to indicate that that's somehow a change of policy.

That's the way it has always been under the booth rule.

Potter Stewart:

That is, other fairgoers could?