494 U.S.872 PDF

Title: U.S. Reports: Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon, et al. v. Smith et al., U.S. (). Contributor Names: Scalia. Smith, U.S. (), a landmark in religious freedom jurisprudence. In Religious Freedom and Indian Rights: The Case of Oregon v. Smith, Carolyn N. Oregon Department of Human Resources. Docket no. Decided by. Rehnquist Court. Lower court. Oregon Supreme Court. Citation. US ( ).

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To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest u.d.872 “compelling”—permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, “to become a law unto himself,”—contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense. Rather, respondents invoke our traditional compelling interest test to argue that the Free Exercise Clause requires the State to grant them a limited exemption from its general criminal prohibition against the possession of peyote.

Respondents Alfred Smith and Galen Black were fired from their jobs with a private drug rehabilitation organization because uu.s.872 ingested peyote for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of the Native American Church, of which both are members. Yoder Harris v. Any society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy, but that danger increases in direct proportion to the society’s diversity of religious beliefs, and its determination to coerce or suppress none of them.

Commissioner, supra, U. Even if we were inclined to breathe into Sherbert some life beyond the unemployment compensation field, we would not apply it to require exemptions from a generally applicable criminal law. The Court had invalidated three other unemployment compensation restrictions under this standard.

See also Sherbert, supra, U. Earlier decisions on the withholding of unemployment benefits had used a strict scrutiny standard of review, which requires identifying a compelling government interest. Felton Mitchell v. Some religious claims, see n. This does not mean, of course, that courts may not make factual findings as to whether a claimant holds a sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with, and thus is u.e.872 by, the challenged law.

As the language of the Page U. The State’s asserted interest thus amounts only to the symbolic preservation of an unenforced prohibition. Supreme Court, again arguing that denying the unemployment benefits was proper because possession of peyote was a crime. Hull Church Wisconsin v. Gobitis, supra, U.

One h.s.872 that the Court is aware of the consequences, and that its result is not a product of overreaction to the serious problems the country’s drug crisis has generated. Vas modified by the State Board of Pharmacy. Peyote simply is not a popular drug; its distribution for use in religious rituals has nothing to do with the u.s.82 and violent traffic in illegal narcotics that plagues this country.


The u.x.872 circumscribed ritual context in which respondents used peyote is far removed from the irresponsible and unrestricted recreational use of unlawful drugs. Wisconsin Miller v. This distorted view of our precedents leads the majority to conclude that strict scrutiny of a state law burdening the free exercise of religion is a “luxury” that a well-ordered society [p] cannot afford, ante atand that the repression of minority religions is an “unavoidable consequence of democratic government.

Secretary of Labor, U. K.s.872 first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. The court therefore reaffirmed its previous ruling that the State could not deny unemployment benefits to respondents for having engaged in that practice.

Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v Smith

Ante at U. Unemployment Appeals Comm’n of Fla. To say that a person’s u.ss.872 to free exercise has been burdened, of course, does not mean that he has an absolute right to engage in the conduct. III Finally, although I agree with Justice O’CONNOR that courts should refrain u.w.872 delving into questions of whether, as a matter of religious doctrine, a particular practice is “central” to the religion, ante atI do not think this means that the courts must turn a blind eye to the severe impact of a State’s restrictions on the adherents of a minority religion.

This [p] argument, however, could be made in almost any free exercise case. McCormickU.

Employment Div. v. Smith :: U.S. () :: Justia US Supreme Court Center

Similarly, this Court’s prior decisions have not allowed a government to rely on mere speculation about potential harms, but have demanded evidentiary support for a refusal to allow a religious exception.

Ex parte Curtis United Public Workers v. For u.s.72 reasons, I believe that granting a selective exemption in this case would seriously impair Oregon’s compelling interest in prohibiting possession of peyote by its citizens.

While arguing that we should apply the compelling interest test in this case, Justice O’CONNOR nonetheless agrees that our determination of the constitutionality of Oregon’s general criminal prohibition cannot, and should 944, turn on the centrality of the particular religious practice at issue, post at O’CONNOR, J. The Sherbert test, it must be recalled, was developed in a context that lent itself to individualized governmental assessment of the reasons for the relevant conduct On remand, the State Supreme Court held that sacramental peyote use violated, and was not excepted from, the state law prohibition, but concluded that that prohibition was invalid under the Free Exercise Clause.


We have, in any event, recognized that the Free Exercise Clause protects values distinct from those protected 4994 the Equal Protection Clause. Inthe Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles Burke, reminded his staff to punish any Indian engaged in any dance which involves.

What it produces in those other fields — equality of treatment, and an unrestricted flow of contending speech — are constitutional norms; what it would produce here — a private right to ignore generally applicable laws — is a constitutional anomaly. The Court cites cases in which, due to various exceptional circumstances, we found strict scrutiny inapposite, to hint that the Court has repudiated that standard altogether.

The State Supreme U.d.872 affirmed, but this Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a determination whether sacramental peyote use is proscribed by the State’s controlled substance law, which makes it a felony to knowingly or intentionally possess the drug. New Jersey Cantwell v. The Court today, however, interprets the Clause to permit the government to prohibit, without justification, conduct mandated by an individual’s religious beliefs, so long as that prohibition is generally applicable.

Board of Education Walz v. Under such circumstances, the Free Exercise Clause does not require the State to accommodate respondents’ religiously motivated conduct. I At the outset, I note that H.s.872 agree with the Court’s implicit determination that the constitutional question upon which we granted review — whether the Free Exercise Clause protects a person’s religiously motivated use of peyote from the reach of a State’s general criminal law prohibition — is properly presented in this case.

This Court, however, consistently has rejected similar arguments in past free exercise cases, and it should do so here as well. As we noted in Smith I, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the Native American Church is a recognized religion, that peyote is a sacrament of that church, and that respondent’s beliefs were sincerely held.

Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)

Until today, I thought this was a settled and inviolate principle of this Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence. Georgia Cohen v.

See Cantwell, supra, U. We held, however, in Employment Div.