Suppression of Communist Propaganda in the Mails.

A 1962 statute authorizing the Post Office Department to retain all mail from abroad that was determined to be “communist political propaganda” and to forward it to an addressee only upon his request was held unconstitutional in Lamont v. Postmaster General.759 The Court held that to require anyone to request receipt of mail determined to be undesirable by the government was certain to deter and inhibit the exercise of First Amendment rights to receive information.760 Distinguishing Lamont, the Court in 1987 upheld statutory classification as “political propaganda” of communications or expressions by or on behalf of foreign governments, foreign “principals,” or their agents, and reasonably adapted or intended to influence United States foreign policy.761 “The physical detention of materials, not their mere designation as ‘communist political propaganda,’ was the offending element of the statutory scheme [in Lamont].”762

Footnotes

759
381 U.S. 301 (1965). The statute, 76 Stat. 840, was the first federal law the Court ever struck down as an abridgment of the First Amendment speech and press clauses. [Back to text]
760
381 U.S. at 307. Justices Brennan, Harlan, and Goldberg concurred, spelling out in some detail the rationale of the protected right to receive information as the basis for the decision. [Back to text]
761
Meese v. Keene, 481 U.S. 465 (1987). [Back to text]
762
481 U.S. at 480. [Back to text]