494 U.S.872 PDF

Published by on December 26, 2019
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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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However compelling the Government’s then general interest in prohibiting the use of alcohol may have been, it could not plausibly have asserted an interest sufficiently compelling to outweigh Catholics’ right to take communion. In light of our decision in Smith I, which makes this finding a “necessary predicate to a correct evaluation of respondents’ federal claim,” U.

The State of Oregon cannot, consistently with the Free Exercise Clause, deny respondents unemployment benefits. Sullivan Curtis Publishing Co. Hayes Minneapolis Star Tribune Co. The Court responds that generally applicable laws are “one large step” removed from laws aimed at specific religious practices. The State proclaims an interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens from the dangers of unlawful drugs.

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

During Prohibition, the Federal Government exempted such use of wine from its general ban on possession and use of alcohol. Moreover, 23 States, including many that have significant Native American populations, have statutory or judicially crafted exemptions in their drug laws for religious use of peyote. Rhode Island, U. In this case, the State’s justification for refusing to recognize an exception to its criminal laws for religious peyote use is entirely speculative.

A person who is barred from engaging in religiously motivated conduct is barred from freely exercising his religion. Maynard Agency for International Development v.

It would doubtless be unconstitutional, for example, to ban the casting of “statues that are to be used. It would require, for example, the same degree of “compelling state interest” to impede the practice of throwing rice at church weddings as to impede the practice of getting married in church.

Dover Area School District M. Religious belief frequently entails the performance of physical acts—assembling for worship, consumption of bread and wine, abstaining from certain foods or behaviors. The unusual circumstances that make the religious use of peyote compatible with the State’s interests in health and safety and in preventing drug trafficking would not apply to other religious claims.


Citing our decisions in Sherbert v. It would require, for example, the same degree of “compelling state interest” to impede the practice of throwing rice at church weddings as to impede the practice of getting married in church. The Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use. Thus, the critical question in this case is whether exempting respondents from the State’s general criminal prohibition “will unduly interfere with fulfillment of the governmental interest.

Earlier in her opinion, however, Justice O’CONNOR appears to contradict this, saying that the proper approach is “to determine whether the burden on the specific plaintiffs before us is constitutionally significant and whether the particular criminal interest asserted by the State before us is compelling. In recent years we have abstained from applying the Sherbert test outside the unemployment compensation field at all.

Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v Smith

Our free speech cases similarly recognize that neutral regulations that affect free speech values are subject to a balancing, rather than categorical, approach. Robert Bergman, testified by affidavit to this effect on behalf of respondent Smith before the Employment Appeal Board. The Court’s parade of horribles, ante at U. In my view, however, the First Amendment was enacted precisely to protect the rights of those whose religious practices are not shared by the majority and may be viewed with hostility.

It is one thing to impose a tax on the income or property of 4994 preacher. However, the state administrative schemes in those situations had provided internally for .us.872 more individualized consideration of circumstances than what Oregon allowed. See Olsen, U.

Indeed, few States would be so naive as to enact a law directly prohibiting or burdening a religious practice as such. When respondents applied to petitioner Employment Division for unemployment compensation, they were determined to be ineligible for benefits because they had been discharged for work-related “misconduct”. FEC Citizens United v. Both lines of cases have specifically adverted to the non-free exercise principle involved.

It is true that activities of individuals, even when religiously based, are often subject.

But a law that prohibits certain conduct — conduct that happens to be an act of worship for someone — manifestly does prohibit that person’s free exercise of his religion. Supreme Court Employment Div. She pointed out, however, that even a so-called neutral law of general applicability imposes a burden on a person’s exercise of religion if that law prevents a person from engaging in religiously motivated conduct or requires a person to engage in conduct forbidden by his or her religion.


It is quite another thing to exact a tax from him for the privilege of delivering a sermon. There is, however, practically no illegal traffic in peyote. The peyote plant is extremely bitter, and eating it is an unpleasant experience, which would tend to discourage casual or recreational use. A State that makes criminal an individual’s religiously motivated conduct burdens that individual’s free exercise of religion in the severest manner possible, for it “results in the choice to the individual of either abandoning his religious principle or facing criminal prosecution.

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. Review Bd of Indiana Security Div.

Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations Bigelow v. We have here something quite different, for example, from a tax on the income of one who engages in religious activities or a tax on property used or employed in connection with those activities.

Thus, this case is distinguishable from United States v.

Employment Division v. Smith

In my view, today’s holding dramatically departs from well-settled First Amendment jurisprudence, appears unnecessary to resolve the question presented, and is incompatible with our Nation’s fundamental commitment to individual religious liberty. The Oregon Supreme Court reasoned, however, that the criminality of respondents’ peyote use was irrelevant to resolution of their constitutional claim — since the purpose of the “misconduct” provision under which respondents had been disqualified was not to enforce the State’s criminal laws, but u.e.872 preserve the u.ss.872 integrity of the compensation fund, and since that purpose was inadequate to justify the burden that disqualification imposed on respondents’ religious practice.

But a government interest in symbolism, even symbolism for so worthy a cause as the abolition of unlawful drugs, cannot suffice to abrogate the constitutional rights of individuals.

I In weighing h.s.872 clear interest in the free exercise of their religion against Oregon’s asserted interest in enforcing its drug laws, it is important to articulate in precise terms the state interest involved. Kansas Freedman v.