R.A.v. v. City Of St. Paul

505 U.S. 377 (1992)


R.A.V. (D), a teenager, was charged under an ordinance that prohibited the display of a burning cross, a swastika, or other symbol that one knows or has reason to know arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender. D had burned a cross in a black family’s yard. The cross was crudely made from broken chair legs and was burned inside the family’s fenced yard. D moved to dismiss this count on the ground that the St. Paul ordinance was substantially overbroad and impermissibly content-based, and therefore facially invalid under the First Amendment. The trial court granted this motion, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed. The state supreme court upheld the claim because the statute was not overbroad and was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The court construed the statute as limited to fighting words.