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Opinion of the Court.
charts but those provided by the most vocal and powerful orthodoxies. New York cannot vest such unlimited restraining control over motion pictures in a censor. Cf. Kunz v. New York, 340 U. S. 290 (1951)." Under such a standard the most careful and tolerant censor would find it virtually impossible to avoid favoring one religion over another, and he would be subject to an inevitable tendency to ban the expression of unpopular sentiments sacred to a religious minority. Application of the “sacrilegious” test, in these or other respects, might raise substantial questions under the First Amendment's guaranty of separate church and state with freedom of worship for all.18 However, from the standpoint of freedom of speech and the press, it is enough to point out that the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them which is sufficient to justify prior restraints upon the expression of those views. It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine, whether they appear in publications, speeches, or motion pictures.19
Since the term “sacrilegious” is the sole standard under attack here, it is not necessary for us to decide, for ex
17 Cf. Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U. S. 268 (1951); Saia v. New York, 334 U. S. 558 (1948); Largent v. Texas, 318 U. S. 418 (1943); Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U. S. 444 (1938).
18 See Cant well v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296 (1940).
19 See the following statement by Mr. Justice Roberts, speaking for a unanimous Court in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296, 310 (1940) :
"In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times, resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But the people of
REED, J., concurring.
ample, whether a state may censor motion pictures under a clearly drawn statute designed and applied to prevent the showing of obscene films. That is a very different question from the one now before us.20 We hold only that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments a state may not ban a film on the basis of a censor's conclusion that it is "sacrilegious.”
MR. JUSTICE REED, concurring in the judgment of the Court.
Assuming that a state may establish a system for the licensing of motion pictures, an issue not foreclosed by the Court's opinion, our duty requires us to examine the facts of the refusal of a license in each case to determine
this nation have ordained in the light of history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.
“The essential characteristic of these liberties is, that under their shield many types of life, character, opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed. Nowhere is this shield more necessary than in our own country for a people composed of many races and of many creeds."
20 In the Near case, this Court stated that “the primary requirements of decency may be enforced against obscene publications." 283 U. S. 697, 716. In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568, 571-572 (1942), Mr. Justice Murphy stated for a unanimous Court: “There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or 'fighting' words—those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” But see Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U. S. 77, 82 (1949): “When ordinances undertake censorship of speech or religious practices before permitting their exercise, the Constitution forbids their enforcement.”
FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.
whether the principles of the First Amendment have been honored. This film does not seem to me to be of a character that the First Amendment permits a state to exclude from public view.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, whom MR. JUSTICE JACKson joins, concurring in the judgment of the Court; Mr. JUSTICE BURTON, having concurred in the opinion of the Court, also joins this opinion.
A practised hand has thus summarized the story of "The Miracle": 1
“A poor, simple-minded girl is tending a herd of goats on a mountainside one day, when a bearded stranger passes. Suddenly it strikes her fancy that he is St. Joseph, her favorite saint, and that he has come to take her to heaven, where she will be happy and free. While she pleads with him to transport her, the stranger gently plies the girl with wine, and when she is in a state of tumult, he apparently ravishes her. (This incident in the story is only briefly and discreetly implied.)
"The girl awakens later, finds the stranger gone, and climbs down from the mountain not knowing whether he was real or a dream. She meets an old priest who tells her that it is quite possible that she did see a saint, but a younger priest scoffs at the notion. Materialist!' the old priest says.
"There follows now a brief sequence-intended to be symbolic, obviously—in which the girl is reverently sitting with other villagers in church. Moved by a whim of appetite, she snitches an apple from the basket of a woman next to her. When she leaves the church, a cackling beggar tries to make her share
1 Crowther, “The Strange Case of 'The Viracle,' ” Atlantic Monthly, April, 1951, pp. 35, 36–37.
FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.
the apple with him, but she chases him away as by habit and munches the fruit contentedly.
"Then, one day, while tending the village youngsters as their mothers work at the vines, the girl faints and the women discover that she is going to have a child. Frightened and bewildered, she suddenly murmurs, 'It is the grace of God!' and she runs to the church in great excitement, looks for the statue of St. Joseph, and then prostrates herself on the floor.
"Thereafter she meekly refuses to do any menial work and the housewives humor her gently but the young people are not so kind. In a scene of brutal torment, they first flatter and laughingly mock her, then they cruelly shove and hit her and clamp a basin as a halo on her head. Even abused by the beggars, the poor girl gathers together her pitiful rags and sadly departs from the village to live alone in a cave.
“When she feels her time coming upon her, she starts back towards the village. But then she sees the crowds in the streets; dark memories haunt her; so she turns towards a church on a high hill and instinctively struggles towards it, crying desperately to God. A goat is her sole companion. She drinks water dripping from a rock. And when she comes to the church and finds the door locked, the goat attracts her to a small side door. Inside the church, the poor girl braces herself for her labor pains. There is a dissolve, and when we next see her sad face, in close-up, it is full of a tender light. There is the cry of an unseen baby. The girl reaches towards it and
murmurs, "My son! My love! My flesh!'” “The Miracle”- a film lasting forty minutes—was produced in Italy by Roberto Rossellini. Anna Magnani played the lead as the demented goat-tender. It was first shown at the Venice Film Festival in August, 1948,
FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.
combined with another moving picture, “L'Umano Voce," into a diptych called “Amore." According to an affidavit
” from the Director of that Festival, if the motion picture had been “blasphemous" it would have been barred by the Festival Committee. In a review of the film in L'Osservatore Romano, the organ of the Vatican, its film critic, Piero Regnoli, wrote: “Opinions may vary and questions may arise—even serious ones—of a religious nature (not to be diminished by the fact that the woman portrayed is mad [because] the author who attributed madness to her is not mad) ... While acknowledging that there were “passages of undoubted cinematic distinction,” Regnoli criticized the film as being “on such a pretentiously cerebral plane that it reminds one of the early d'Annunzio." The Vatican newspaper's critic concluded: "we continue to believe in Rossellini's art and we look forward to his next achievement." 3 In October, 1948, a month after the Rome premiere of “The Miracle," the Vatican's censorship agency, the Catholic Cinematographic Centre, declared that the picture "constitutes in effect an abominable profanation from religious and moral viewpoints.” 4 By the Lateran agreements and the Italian Constitution the Italian Government is bound to bar whatever may offend the Catholic religion. However, the Catholic Cinematographic Centre did not invoke any governmental sanction thereby afforded. The Italian Government's censorship agency gave “The Miracle” the regular nulla osta clearance. The film was freely shown throughout Italy, but was not a great success. Italian movie critics divided in opinion. The critic for Il Popolo, speaking for the Christian Democratic Party, the Catholic
2 L'Osservatore Romano, Aug. 25, 1948, p. 2, col. 1, translated in part in The Commonweal, Mar. 23, 1951, p. 592, col. 2.