1939 July 8

Jehovah’s Witnesses Parade in Manchester, NH – End in Supreme Court


Sixty-eight members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested on this day for parading without a permit. Their convictions were appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled, in Cox v. New Hampshire on March 31, 1941, that governments could require parade permits and set reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, but could not restrict the content of the views expressed.

Because of their anti-Catholic rhetoric and proselytizing tactics that many communities found obnoxious, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were the most hated group in America in the late 1930s and 1940s. As a result, they were the target of many laws designed to restrict their activities. In addition, they were the victims of many vigilante attacks by mobs.

The case that began on this day was one of many involving the Jehovah’s Witnesses between the late 1930s and the early 1950s in which the Supreme Court established new and important protections of First Amendment rights. The case of Cantwell v. Connecticut, involving the family of Newton Cantwell, established the free exercise of religion on May 20, 1940. The most famous controversy involved the refusal on religious grounds of Jehovah’s Witness children to participate in compulsory school flag salute exercises. The Supreme Court affirmed that right in West Virginia v. Barnette, on June 14, 1943.

The Court: “If a municipality has authority to control the use of its public streets for parades or processions, as it undoubtedly has, it cannot be denied authority to give consideration, without unfair discrimination, to time, place and manner in relation to the other proper uses of the streets.”

Learn more: Shawn Peters, Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution (2000)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!