Sunday, December 8, 2013

Prince v. Massachusetts case brief

Prince v. Massachusetts case brief summary
321 U.S. 158 (1944)

Appellant sought review of a judgment from the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth County, which convicted her, on trial de novo, for violating state child labor laws, underMass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, §§ 80, 81, for allowing her child to engage in street preaching and selling religious pamphlets.

Appellant was convicted of violating the state child labor laws under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, §§ 80, 81. She appealed, arguing that §§ 80and 81 contravened U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV by denying her freedom of religion and equal protection of the laws.


  • The court noted that the state's authority over children's activities was broader than over like actions of adults. 
  • The court held that the State had the power to control the conduct of children with reference to street preaching. 
  • The court found that there were dangers in street preaching and selling the religious materials because that was not the primary purpose of the road. 
  • The court noted that parents could make martyrs out of themselves but not out of their children. 
  • The State had the right to protect the children against the dangers of preaching religion on the highway. 
  • The court also noted that the street was not the Jehovah's Witnesses' church because the public highways were not their religious property merely by their assertion. 
  • There was no denial of equal protection in excluding their children from doing on the public highways what no other children could do. 
  • The court's ruling was restricted to the facts of the case.

The court affirmed appellant's conviction for violating the state child labor laws for engaging her child in street preaching. The court held that the State had greater authority to control the acts of children and, in particular, to protect children against the dangers of preaching on a public road. The court held that equal protection was not violated because Jehovah's Witnesses could not claim that a public road was their church.

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