Designated Public Forums

First Amendment law concerning government regulation of the freedom of speech tends to develop in strands. One such strand is forum analysis, which concerns the constitutional limitations on government control of speech and expression on government property.

The Supreme Court’s forum analysis includes three types of forums. The traditional public forum includes public streets, sidewalks, and parks, all places historically reserved for expressive activities. The designated public forum is any other government property intentionally held open for expressive activities. The nonpublic forum comprises all of the remaining government property, such as jails and military bases. The forum label dictates the analysis the court will apply.

The Supreme Court uses essentially the same test for traditional and designated public forums. The test has several requirements. First, the government generally cannot enact content based regulations that discriminate against a particular message (Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263, 1981). Second, the government can enact content-neutral time, place, and manner regulations, but only if the regulations are reasonable (Perry Education Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 372 U.S. 229, 1963). Reasonable regulations are defined by the Supreme Court as those that are narrowly tailored to serve a substantial government interest and leave open ample alternative channels of communication (see, for example, Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 1989).

It is important to emphasize that heavy use does not dictate whether a designated public forum is created. Instead, the government’s intent is critical. Thus, airports generally are not designated public forums but rather nonpublic forums, because they are places where people congregate to travel, not to speak (see, for example, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 502 U.S. 1022, 1992). Similarly, a public school during school hours is a nonpublic forum and not a designated public forum because it is dedicated to teaching and learning, not to freedom of expression (see, for example, Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 1986).

On the other hand, public schools opened to the community for the after-hours exchanges of communication can become designated public forums. If a public school becomes a designated public forum after hours, school officials are prevented from excluding certain groups because of their message (see, for example, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 553 U.S. 98, 2001). (The exclusion of a religious group from after-hours discussions of character and morals while allowing all other nonreligious groups to do so is impermissible content based discrimination.)


Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986)
  • Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 553 U.S. 98 (2001)
  • International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 502 U.S. 1022 (1992)
  • Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association, 372 U.S. 229 (1963)
  • Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989)
  • Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981)


reload, if the code cannot be seen
  • barry Steve Asbury

  • 9 August 2016 13:42
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Virginia Illegally Possesses My Family’s Deeded Private Property Violating Constitution
I am documented as an heir of Edwin Bain and Sarah Fletcher of Virginia
whose family came into Rhode Island with the rest of the Baptists around 1400.
Virginia owes $300 BILLION ond our family home back after receiving it ille-gally
and then refusing to follow the law, give our home back, and pay us as
required by the law passed by the Virginia General Assembly. Many years
passed after the order date. Our land is still in illegal possession of Virginia who
lied and cheated in court to keep me from getting my family’s land returned
and chose to play dirty games as they knew I was ready to present the evidence
and documents to the judge on the record as required. We were stolen from
and Virginia still has beneficial possession of our land making Virginia a
knowledgable accomplice to the theft who refuses to follow the law where
they were ordered to give us our home back and to pay us by the first of
February, 1782. Virginia never followed the law, still doesn’t want to, and has
tried low ball cheating tactics to keep me from getting the only place we know
as home. Virginia never gave us our home back as ordered nor paid the
lawfully ordered payment and they lied and played dirty tricks when I went to
court like I was told by the Virginia governor. Virginia still has our property
illegally and has refused for 236 years to pay the lawfully legislated debt
which, because of failure to pay as lawfully ordered, has grown to $300
BILLION with 10% simple legal interest added each year of failing to pay.
This is how government failing to provide equal justice began. When they found
they could get away with playing tricks with their legal system, it is what it is today.
Governors Tim Kaine, Bob McDonnell & Terry McAuliffe all refused to do the right thing.
Barry Steve Asbury, PO Box 10922, Parkville, Md. 410-665-0443