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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

Father Arthur Terminiello, in an auditorium in Chicago, delivered a vitriolic speech in which he criticized various political and racial groups and viciously condemned the protesting crowd that had gathered outside the auditorium. Policemen assigned to the event were unable to prevent several disturbances by the "angry and turbulent" crowd. The police arrested Terminiello for "breach of the peace." He was then tried and convicted for his central role in inciting a riot.


Did the Chicago ordinance violate Terminiello's right of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment?


In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the "breach of the peace" ordinance unconstitutionally infringed upon the freedom of speech. Noting that "[t]he vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion," the Court held that speech could be restricted only in the event that it was "likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest." Justice Douglas wrote that "a function of free speech under our system is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger."

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TERMINIELLO v. CHICAGO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_272>.
TERMINIELLO v. CHICAGO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_272 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"TERMINIELLO v. CHICAGO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_272.