R.A.V. v. St. Paul

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In R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a state cross-burning statute that imposed greater criminal penalties based on the content expressed in the speech. The statute at issue was this:

"Whoever places on public or private property a symbol, object, appellation, characterization or graffiti, including, but not limited to, a burning cross or Nazi swastika, which one knows or has reasonable grounds to know arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender commits disorderly conduct and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

The decision was unanimous that this statute was unconstitutional under the First Amendment, but Justice Antonin Scalia's decision enjoyed only a 5-4 majority of the Court. He held that there were less restrictive alternatives for satisfying the admittedly compelling state interest in banning this highly offensive conduct.

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