In Oregon, it it legal to leave religious tracts in public places? Would it be considered littering?

1 Answer 1


It is legal, and it is illegal given the First Amendment to prohibit distribution of viewpoint literature in a "public place", if you mean "on government property". There are a few exceptions such as "on a military base" where expression is encumbered, so you would have to be more specific about where this takes place – any such restrictions would have to be general and could not specifically target religion. It is not "offensive littering" which is a state crime. Non-offensive littering is governed by municipal ordinances such as Eugune's, that

No person shall throw or deposit or cause to be thrown or deposited any glass, metal, broken ware, dirt, timber, brush, rubbish, garbage, filth, or litter on public or private property except in such places as may be designated by the council

but distributing literature does not fit that description (it isn't "throwing" or "depositing" the enumerated substances on property, it is "distributing"). The city might tell you to pick up the flyers if you put them in a pile outside and they get blown all over the place, but it's not clear that they can, under Oregon law, legally force you to gather them up.

  • Okay, thank you! What about in a building owned by a business? Of course, if I'm told to stop, I should, but would I have to ask permission before distributing the tracts?
    – Someone
    May 12 at 17:33
  • 2
    Private property is quite different. In a public place (private property) you can do ordinary public things given the implicit permission associated with e.g. being a grocery store, but the owner can rescind that permission (tell you to stop it or leave), whence it becomes a matter of trespassing. You don't have to ask for prior permission, unless there is a indication to the contrary ("masks required", "no dogs").
    – user6726
    May 12 at 18:28
  • @user2676 does "ordinary public things" include distributing religious literature?
    – Someone
    May 12 at 20:00
  • @Someone in a church? Yes. In a grocery store? No. Ordinary things are things that are ordinary for that time and that place.
    – Dale M
    May 12 at 21:52
  • @DaleM so on private property, even if it's publicly accessible, I would need to get permission from the owner, unless it's a church or similar place where distributing religious literature is normal? Also, wouldn't there be cases where doing it in a church isn't "ordinary"? (e.g. going to a Catholic church and handing out Protestant literature isn't ordinary)
    – Someone
    May 13 at 1:10

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