a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
August 23, 2005

THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT DESCRIBING THE COMPELLING INTEREST TEST: THE “LEAST RESTRICTIVE MEANS” COMPONENT

“Requiring a State to demonstrate a compelling interest and show that it has adopted the least restrictive means of achieving that interest is the most demanding test known to constitutional law.”

City of Boerne v. Flores, 1997 US Lexis 4035, 46

“When the State enacts legislation that intentionally or unintentionally places a burden upon religiously motivated practice, it must justify that burden by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving some compelling state interest.’”

Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 578, (1993)

“Court recognized the State’s interest in restricting the ballot to parties with demonstrated public support, the Court took the requirement for statewide contests as an indication that the more onerous standard for local contests was not the least restrictive means of advancing that interest.”

Norman v. Reed, 502 U.S. 279, 292, (1992)

“[T]he Court of Appeals concluded that it was unclear whether Resolution 66-156 directly advanced the State’s asserted interests and whether, if it did, it was the least restrictive means to that end.”

Board of Trustees of the State Univ. of New York v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 473, (1989)

“The Government may, however, regulate the content of constitutionally protected speech in order to promote a compelling interest if it chooses the least restrictive means to further the articulated interest.”

Sable Communis. of California, Inc. v. FCC, 492 U.S. 115, 126, (1989)

“[H]e contends that the State must establish that the disclosure requirement directly advances the relevant governmental interest and that it constitutes the least restrictive means of doing so.”

Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio
471 U.S. 626, 650, (1985)

“The state may justify an inroad on religious liberty by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving some compelling state interest.”

Thomas v. Review Bd. of the Indiana Empl. Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718, (1981)

THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT:
THE COMPELLING INTEREST MUST BE “ESSENTIAL” AND “NECESSARY”

“The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish a overriding government interest.”

United States v. Lee, 455 US 252, 257, (1982)

“The Court of Appeals found the injunction to be content based and neither necessary to serve a compelling interest nor narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”

Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, 512 US __, __, (1994)

“[W]e think it clear that a government regulation is sufficiently justified . . . if the incidental restriction on the alleged First Amendment freedom is no greater than is essential to that [governmental] interest.”

Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc., 501 US 560, 567, (1991)

“For the state to enforce a content-based exclusion it must show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”

Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Ed. Assn., 460 US 37, 45, (1983)

“It [the university] must show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”

Widmar v. Vincent, 454 US 263, 270, (1981)

“[The] appellees were exercising a constitutional right, and any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right, unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling government interest, is unconstitutional.”

Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 US 618, 634, (1969)

“[W]e think it clear that a government regulation is sufficiently justified . . . if the incidental restriction on the alleged First Amendment freedom is no greater than is essential to that [governmental] interest.”

United States v. O’Brien, 391 US 367, 377, (1968)