Murdock v. Pennsylvania

PETITIONER: Robert Murdock et al.
RESPONDENT: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

DECIDED BY: Stone Court (1943-1945)

ARGUED: Mar 10, 1943 / Mar 11, 1943
DECIDED: May 03, 1943

Facts of the case

Murdock v. Pennsylvania was a case caused by the provisions of the ordinance that implemented the requirement of paying for a purchase license for all individual soliciting any kinds of goods with the purpose to gain state tax on this transaction in the borough of Jeannette, Pennsylvania.

The petitioner was Murdock, Jehovah's Witness, who handed out religious literature asking for donations to the church in exchange on it. He was accused of selling goods without a license that was considered as tax evasion. The appellant brought suit before the Supreme Court of the Pennsylvania State claiming that his activity of handing out of brochures was deemed as a missionary.

The main his arguments were that this legislative act violated the rights on freedom of speech, press and religion that were fundamental rights proven by the Constitution of the USA. The petitioner argued that he performed distribution of literature for only religious purposes without commercial character as donations could not be considered as payments. The state court didn`t consider such reason because the tax was not high and was imposed for a license.

The case study continues in case of procedure in the USA Supreme Court, which revised the previous judgment. Under its decision, the legislative act was deemed as illegible as it established a tax on the kind of religious activity and that was the breach of freedom of religion right of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The case brief concludes that Murdock v. Pennsylvania decision confirmed the right of exercising religion in different ways freely without tax or other fee. Moreover, the court established the distinction to divide commercial and religious types of promoting activity.


Did Jeannette's ordinance violate the Freedom of Speech, Press, and Religion clauses of the First Amendment?