Is Charitable Solicitations ''Speech'' Protected by the First Amendment ?
In Village of Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 100 S. Ct. 826, 63 L. Ed. 2d 73 (1980), the Court struck down on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds an ordinance which prohibited on-street and door-to-door solicitations for contributions by any charitable organization not using at least 75% of its receipts for charitable purposes.
In reaching its decision the Court emphasized that:
"Prior authorities clearly establish that charitable appeals for funds, on the street or door-to-door, involve a variety of speech interests - communication of information, the dissemination and propagation of views and ideas, and the advocacy of causes - that are within the protection of the First Amendment." Schaumburg, 444 U.S. at 632.
The Supreme Court and numerous lower courts have repeatedly affirmed the broad scope of First Amendment protections accorded charitable solicitations.
United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720, 725, 110 S. Ct. 3115, 111 L. Ed. 2d 571 (1990)("Solicitation is a recognized form of speech protected by the First Amendment");
Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 422, n. 5, 100 L. Ed. 2d 425, 108 S. Ct. 1886 (1988)("The solicitation of charitable contributions often involves speech protected by the First Amendment and any attempt to regulate solicitation would necessarily infringe that speech");
Gaudiya Vaishnava Society v. City of San Francisco, 952 F.2d 1059, 1063 (9th Cir. 1991)("The Supreme Court has held that fundraising for charitable organizations is fully protected speech");
Indiana Voluntary Firemen's Ass'n, Inc. v. Pearson, 700 F. Supp. 421, 435 (S.D. Ind. 1988)(Charitable solicitation is "entitled to the entire panoply of protections afforded by the first amendment").
The Supreme Court has held that these constitutional rights fully apply even where charitable solicitation is done by paid professionals. Schaumburg, 444 U.S. at 632. As the Court noted in Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Inc., 487 U.S. 781, 101 L. Ed. 2d 669, 108 S. Ct. 2667 (1988):
"It is well settled that a speaker's rights are not lost merely because compensation is received; a speaker is no less a speaker because he or she is paid to speak." Riley, U.S. at 801, citing New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 265-66, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686, 84 S. Ct. 710 (1964).