Marsh v. State of Alabama

326 U.S. 501 (1946).

A 1946 United States Supreme Court opinion in which the Court applied First Amendment protections to a private company town, reasoning that “[o]wnership does not always mean absolute dominion.”  The Court reasoned, “[t]he more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.”


Sears Roebuck & Co. v. San Diego County Dist. Council of Carpenters, 49 Cal.App.3d 232 (1975):

In Marsh vState of Alabama (1946), supra, 326 U.S. 501, 66 S.Ct. 276, 90 L.Ed. 265, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to distribute religious literature on the streets of a ‘company town’ because the property, though privately owned by Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, had all the outward appearances of any other town including streets and walkways open to the public with nothing to distinguish them as private property. The owner also assumed the functions of a municipal government.


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