General Comments


Freedom of Assembly.

Approximately 175 respondents stated that requiring permits for expressive activities violates the constitutional right of assembly. Most of these respondents indicated that the First Amendment right of assembly is absolute and that any attempt to regulate assemblies on public land is invalid per se. Specific and recurrent comments from these respondents were as follows:

--That the special use authorization requirement in the proposed rule is generally illegal;

--That no possible governmental interest can justify restrictions on free speech;

--That any regulation of First Amendment activities is content-based per se;

--That there are no acceptable criteria by which to judge an application for authorization of First Amendment activities;

--That Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288 (1984), a case cited in the preamble in support of the proposed rule, violates both the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights;

--That the significant governmental interest standard should not apply because it is too low to justify abridgment of constitutional rights, and that the standards of compelling governmental interest and clear and present danger should apply instead;

--That Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288 (1984), and Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, 394 U.S. 147 (1969), cases cited in the preamble in support of the proposed rule, are too recent and untested;

--That although courts may allow reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on First Amendment activities, the United States Constitution is still the highest law of the land;

--That the United States Constitution is a permit;

--That humanity is a permit;

--That Americans do not need authorization to exercise basic constitutional rights;

--That the proposed rule imposes a prior restraint and is an undue burden on the public;

--That the Rainbow Family cannot comply with the permit requirement;

--That rights cannot be extinguished by decree of an executive agency;

--That one person should not be able to tell another person what to do;

--That everyone should be able to choose when and where they want to gather on public land and distribute noncommercial printed material;

--That in exercising their First Amendment right of assembly, people should be able to act as they please;

--That national forests should remain open to all;

--That national forests are supported by tax dollars and that taxpayers have a right to gather on public lands;

--That public land belongs to the people and that they should be able to use it without a permit;

--That the proposed rule discriminates against humans, who are given fewer rights than animals to gather in the national forests;

--That assemblies on the national forests provide thousands of people with a fine vacation; and

--That if a similar rule were applied in cities or towns, the rule would amount to imposition of martial law.


The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, is the ultimate arbiter of the United States Constitution. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177-78 (1803). As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule and the preamble to this final rule, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government may enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on First Amendment activities. Such restrictions are appropriate where they are content-neutral, where they are narrowly tailored to further a significant governmental interest, and where they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of information. Clark v. CCNV, 468 U.S. at 293. Permits have been recognized as constitutional restrictions of time, place, and manner for expressive activities when specific and objective standards guide the licensing authority. Shuttlesworth, 394 U.S. at 150-51, 153. Both Clark v. CCNV and Shuttlesworth involve time, place, and manner restrictions on demonstrations in urban areas. Clark v. CCNV has been cited nearly 400 times by numerous courts, including over 40 times by the Supreme Court. Shuttlesworth has been cited over 600 times by numerous courts, including over 50 times by the Supreme Court. These cases have been extensively tested.

The final rule meets the constitutional requirements of Clark v. CCNV and Shuttlesworth. The final rule does not restrict, and is not intended to restrict, freedom of thought or expression, nor does the final rule prohibit expressive activities. Rather, the final rule establishes a permit system with specific and objective standards that further the significant governmental interests of resource protection, allocation of space in the face of greater restrictions on the use of public land, and promotion of public health and safety. The final rule presumes that a special use authorization will be granted and restricts the content of an application to information concerning time, place, and manner for activities subject to the rule. Under the final rule, if an application is denied and an alternative time, place, or manner will allow the applicant to meet the evaluation criteria, the authorized officer must offer that alternative.

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