My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mail from the Mailman

A friend, who wished to be anonymous, responded to yesterday's post Mail from Mao:
I can go you one further with the Radio Peking monitoring. I also got a “Little Red Book”, which I still have somewhere.
What you apparently didn’t get was the type of letter I got from the Post Office circa 1964 indicating that an envelope addressed to me from China was “unsealed” and they determined that it contained propaganda. 
I had to check off one of four choices:
  • Please send all mail of this type.
  • Please send only this item.
  • Never send any mail of this type.
  • Don’t send this item.
Also worrying about a future reputation (I was in high school at the time), I chose the don’t send me anything more option. I do miss the calendars they sent, though. The photography was spectacular. 
I think it was the Supreme Court that declared this practice of the PO to be unconstitutional.
I looked it up and it was Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965), a landmark First Amendment Supreme Court case, in which the ruling of the Supreme Court struck down § 305(a) of the Postal Service and Federal Employees Salary Act of 1962, a federal statute requiring the Postmaster General to detain and deliver only upon the addressee's request unsealed foreign mailings of "communist political propaganda."

Under the stricken code, a recipient of material deemed "political propaganda" was required to indicate their intent to receive such materials before they were delivered and accept the material by indicating a desire to do so on a card provided by the Post Office. The card stated that except with the addressee's name and consent to receiving the material, it would be returned within 20 days, the Post Office assuming that the addressee does not want that publication or any similar one in the future.

The Court held:

the Act, as construed and applied, is unconstitutional, since it imposes on the addressee an affirmative obligation which amounts to an unconstitutional limitation of his rights under the First Amendment.

The Court was unanimous in the judgment (8-0, with Justice White recused). Justice Brennan wrote a concurring opinion (which Justice Goldberg joined) and Justice Harlan also wrote a concurring opinion. (Source: Wikipedia)

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