Supreme Court Upholds Right to Knock on Doors

Posted on May 13, 2010


By David Ettinger

Did you know that even the Supreme Court of the United States guarantees your right to knock on doors in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

On June 17, 2002, the Supreme Court (Watchtower Society v. Village of Stratton, Ohio, case 536 U.S. 150) ruled unconstitutional an ordinance requiring those going door to door to register their names, addresses and activities. The 8-1 Supreme Court decision deemed that such stipulations violate the First Amendment as it applies to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills.

The ruling was a victory for both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons, two belief systems that require their members to evangelize door to door. It is this personal method of evangelism that has made Mormonism among the world’s fastest-growing religions.

In this climate of political correctness and anti-Christian sentiment, the 2002 Supreme Court ruling comes as quite an irony. Here is a rare case — though hardly the intent — where a United States judicial body has actually sided with the cause of Christianity, among others.
So, what does this mean to Christians?

First, that the responsibility of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the U.S. is without legal limitations. Of course there are hindrances to openly sharing the Christian faith in public schools, government agencies, and the like, but when it comes to this most intimate — and very effective — form of evangelism, the government has taken (at least for the present) and “hands-off” position.

Second, the Supreme Court ruling has given every Christian in the U.S. a guarantee that he or she can feel free to share the love of Christ door to door without fear of arrest. The same cannot be said for many of the world’s nations, where imprisonment and even death await those who tell others about Christ. However,  this is certainly not the case in America, at least for the present. Sharing the gospel door to door has been guaranteed since the founding of our nation, ratified by the First Amendment, and upheld, most recently, by the 2002 Supreme Court ruling.

Third, Christians have no excuse not to share door to door. When the Jehovah Witnesses originally made their case against the Village of Stratton, they contended that the ordinance violated their free exercise of preaching the Word as commanded by Scripture. In this instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct — Scripture does command God’s people to share His message of salvation with those who don’t know Him. And if the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can boldly go door to door, how much more so should those who have proclaimed Jesus Christ to be their only Lord and Savior.

Our commission to share the saving message of salvation through Christ comes from several places in the Bible. Matthew 28:19-20 says: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Romans 10:14 tells us: “How, then, can they [unbelievers] call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” 1 Peter 3:15 encourages us this way: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

As these scriptures clearly indicate, we as Christians need to verbally share the message of the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Can God choose different methods of spreading His Word of Truth to a lost and dying world? Can he simply blare the message from the heavens in an exultant trumpet-call of proclaimed truth? Of course He can; but He chooses not to. Instead, God chooses to use His children — you and me — redeemed from condemnation and sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary. In so doing, He has made each of us, you included, to be “… a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

With God’s expectations of us made so clear through His Word, we simply don’t need the Supreme Court “giving us permission” to go door to door with this wonderful message. However, it’s nice to know that our nation’s most powerful judicial body is aligned with God’s will when it comes to this matter. Now, what about you? What about your church? How active are you in delivering the message of salvation door to door to your neighbors? If you have not yet done so, today would be a wonderful day to start. After all, you have the Supreme Court’s blessing.

Posted in: Editorial/Blog