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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
Facts of the Case 

A New Hampshire law required all noncommercial vehicles to bear license plates containing the state motto "Live Free or Die." George Maynard, a Jehovah's Witness, found the motto to be contrary to his religious and political beliefs and cut the words "or Die" off his plate. Maynard was convicted of violating the state law and was subsequently fined and given a jail sentence.


Did the New Hampshire law unconstitutionally interfere with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment?

Decision: 6 votes for Maynard, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Free Exercise of Religion

In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that New Hampshire could not constitutionally require citizens to display the state motto upon their vehicle license plates. The Court found that the statute in question effectively required individuals to "use their private property as a 'mobile billboard' for the State's ideological message." The Court held that the State's interests in requiring the motto did not outweigh free speech principles under the First Amendment, including "the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster. . .an idea they find morally objectionable."

Cite this Page
WOOLEY v. MAYNARD. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 30 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_1453>.
WOOLEY v. MAYNARD, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_1453 (last visited August 30, 2015).
"WOOLEY v. MAYNARD," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 30, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_1453.