To Litter or to Proselytize

A friend of mine asked me recently why it was legal to leave pamphlets and, as it is called, “junk mail” on doorsteps and pinned by windshield wipers of cars, and yet it was illegal to remove said junk mail or pamphlet. He has a good point.

If the mail man, or paper boy, can drop junk mail rolled up and fastened with rubber bands on my driveway (private property, by the way) or on my car (also private property), why is it not okay to remove it? If I toss it aside, and it lands on public property, it’s considered littering, which I would be fined for. But if they toss it onto my private property, it’s considered advertising or , which is fully protected by law. Let’s say I remove it from my private property and place on the private property of another. Would that be legal, or right?

It doesn’t make much sense that people can put papers on my car or on my driveway, yet I can’t remove the papers without having to find a garbage bin to toss them in, or find another private parcel of land, or car, to put them on. And why is it that I cannot opt out of these sorts of things? If, for instance, you like them, and you read them, and you find value in them, you can surely say to the deliverer that you’d like for them to continue. But if you don’t want them on your property, and your reaction is to toss them aside or in the garbage, then you should have a choice to opt out of it.

There’s a similar sort of scenario in proselytizing. But they do it right. We have all experienced religious folk waving little messianic related pamphlets in our faces on the way to the grocery store or airport gate. The only difference is that, while they are certainly annoying, the biblical pamphleteers aren’t putting the literature in our pockets, stapling them to our shirts or leaving them on our cars (well, most of them anyway). They are simply, if not altogether illogically, attempting to bring another into the “flock.”

Let’s say for a moment that I was the one throwing papers on your property. And my papers, for instance, consisted of profane and graphic representations of sex, all with the intention of advertising a new sex shop in the area. Would you be displeased? And does the content make a difference in your decision? Would you be more inclined to advocate for property rights if the content was offensive to your beliefs or sensibilities?

What do you do when you find papers on your car, or in your driveway? Do you toss aside without looking at it? Do you take it to the trash? What are your thoughts?

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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2 thoughts on “To Litter or to Proselytize

  1. marksimpson884 says:

    I never thought about it that way before. Initially I didn’t understand but as I read on I realized just how valid your point is.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for reading and responding to the post. I think these sort of philosophical musings of practical, relate-able situations are enjoyable.

    So, what do you do with the junk mail thrown on your driveway?


    P.S. I tried going to your blog but it was labeled “private.” Oh well!

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