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While the government may properly act in many situations to prohibit intrusion into the privacy of the home of unwelcome views and ideas which cannot be totally banned from the public dialogue, e.g., Rowan v. Post Office Dept., 397 U. S. 728 (1970), it has at the same time consistently stressed that 'we are often captives' outside the sanctuary of the home and subject to objectionable speech.' Id. at 397 U. S. 738. The ability of government, consonant with the Constitution, to shut off discourse solely to protect others from hearing it is, in other words, dependent upon a showing that substantial privacy interests are being invaded in an essentially intolerable manner. Any broader view of this authority would effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.

Most situations where the State has a justifiable interest in regulating speech will fall within one or more of the various established exceptions, to the usual rule that governmental bodies may not prescribe the form or content of individual expression. Equally important is the constitutional backdrop against which our decision must be made. The constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine in ...

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