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decided: February 20, 1980.



White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 639.

Author: White

[ 444 U.S. Page 622]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is the validity under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of a municipal ordinance prohibiting the solicitation of contributions by charitable organizations that do not use at least 75 percent of their receipts for "charitable purposes," those purposes being defined to exclude solicitation expenses, salaries, overhead, and other administrative expenses. The Court of Appeals held the ordinance unconstitutional. We affirm that judgment.


The Village of Schaumburg (Village) is a suburban community located 25 miles northwest of Chicago, Ill. On March 12, 1974, the Village adopted "An Ordinance Regulating Soliciting by Charitable Organizations," codified as Art. III of Chapter 22 of the Schaumburg Village Code (Code), which regulates the activities of "peddlers and solicitors," Code § 22-1 et seq. (1975).*fn1 Article III*fn2 provides that

[ 444 U.S. Page 623]

     "[every] charitable organization, which solicits or intends to solicit contributions from persons in the village by door-to-door solicitation or the use of public streets and public ways, shall prior to such solicitation apply for a permit." § 22-20.*fn3

[ 444 U.S. Page 624]

     Solicitation of contributions for charitable organizations without a permit is prohibited and is punishable by a fine of up to $500 for each offense. Schaumburg Ordinance No. 1052, §§ 1, 8 (1974).

Section 22-20 (g), which is the focus of the constitutional challenge involved in this case, requires that permit applications, among other things, contain "[satisfactory] proof that at least seventy-five per cent of the proceeds of such solicitations will be used directly for the charitable purpose of the organization."*fn4 In determining whether an organization satisfies the 75-percent requirement, the ordinance provides that

"the following items shall not be deemed to be used for the charitable purposes of the organization, to wit:

"(1) Salaries or commissions paid to solicitors;

"(2) Administrative expenses of the organization, including, but not limited to, salaries, attorneys' fees, rents, telephone, advertising expenses, contributions to other organizations and persons, except as a charitable contribution and related expenses incurred as administrative or overhead items." § 22-20 (g).

Respondent Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation organized for the purpose of promoting "the protection of the environment." CBE is registered with the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Division pursuant to Illinois law,*fn5 and has been afforded

[ 444 U.S. Page 625]

     tax-exempt status by the United States Internal Revenue Service, and gifts to it are deductible for federal income tax purposes. CBE requested permission to solicit contributions in the Village, but the Village denied CBE a permit because CBE could not demonstrate that 75 percent of its receipts would be used for "charitable purposes" as required by § 22-20 (g) of the Code. CBE then sued the Village in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, charging that the 75-percent requirement of § 22-20 (g) violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Declaratory and injunctive relief was sought.

In its amended complaint, CBE alleged that "[it] was organized for the purpose, among others, of protecting, maintaining, and enhancing the quality of the Illinois environment." The complaint also alleged:

"That incident to its purpose, CBE employs 'canvassers' who are engaged in door-to-door activity in the Chicago metropolitan area, endeavoring to distribute literature on environmental topics and answer questions of an environmental nature when posed; solicit contributions to financially support the organization and its programs; receive grievances and complaints of an environmental nature regarding which CBE may afford assistance in the evaluation and redress of these grievances and complaints."

The Village's answer to the complaint averred that the foregoing allegations, even if true, would not be material to

[ 444 U.S. Page 626]

     the issues of the case, acknowledged that CBE employed "canvassers" to solicit funds, but alleged that "CBE is primarily devoted to raising funds for the benefit and salary of its employees and that its charitable purposes are negligible as compared with the primary objective of raising funds." The Village also alleged "that more than 60% of the funds collected [by CBE] have been spent for benefits of employees and not for any charitable purposes."*fn6

CBE moved for summary judgment and filed affidavits describing its purposes and the activities of its "canvassers" as outlined in the complaint. One of the affidavits also alleged that "the door-to-door canvass is the single most important source of funds" for CBE. A second affidavit offered by CBE stated that in 1975 the organization spent 23.3% of its income on fundraising and 21.5% of its income on administration, and that in 1976 these figures were 23.3% and 16.5%, respectively. The Village opposed the motion but filed no counteraffidavits taking issue with the factual representations in CBE's affidavits.

The District Court awarded summary judgment to CBE. The court recognized that although "the government may regulate solicitation in order to protect the community from

[ 444 U.S. Page 627]

     fraud, . . . [any] action impinging upon the freedom of expression and discussion . . . must be minimal, and intimately related to an articulated, substantial government interest." The court concluded that the 75-percent requirement of § 22-20 (g) of the Code on its face was "a form of censorship" prohibited by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Section 22-20 (g) was declared void on its face, its enforcement was enjoined, and the Village was ordered to issue a charitable solicitation permit to CBE.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. 590 F.2d 220 (1978). The court rejected the Village's argument that summary judgment was inappropriate because material issues of fact were disputed. Because CBE challenged the facial validity of the village ordinance on First Amendment grounds, the court held that "any issue of fact as to the nature of CBE's particular activities is not material . . . and is therefore not an obstacle to the granting of summary judgment." Id., at 223. Like the District Court, the Court of Appeals recognized that the Village had a legitimate interest in regulating solicitation to protect its residents from fraud and the disruption of privacy, but that such regulation "must be done 'with narrow specificity'" when First Amendment interests are affected. Id., at 223-224. The court concluded that even if the 75-percent requirement might be valid as applied to other types of charitable solicitation, the Village's requirement was unreasonable on its face because it barred solicitation by advocacy-oriented organizations even "where it is made clear that the contributions will be used for reasonable salaries of those who will gather and disseminate information relevant to the organization's purpose." Id., at 226. The court distinguished National Foundation v. Fort Worth, 415 F.2d 41 (CA5 1969), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 1040 (1970), which upheld an ordinance authorizing denial of charitable solicitation permits to organizations with excessive solicitation costs, on the ground that although the Fort Worth ordinance deemed unreasonable solicitation costs in excess of

[ 444 U.S. Page 62820]

     percent of gross receipts, it nevertheless permitted organizations that demonstrated the reasonableness of such ...

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