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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They maintained that peyote was an integral part of Native American religious ceremonies.

As we have noted in a slightly different context, “‘[s]uch a test has no basis in precedent and relegates a serious First Amendment value to the barest level of minimum scrutiny that the Equal Protection Clause already 44 Rhode Island Sorrell v. 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.

The distinction between questions of centrality and questions of sincerity and burden is admittedly fine, but it is one that is an established part of our free exercise doctrine, see Ballard, U. United States, 98 U. That choice is, in my view, more than sufficient to trigger First Amendment scrutiny. Respondents’ claim for relief rests on our decisions in Sherbert v. Ante at ; cf. If Oregon can constitutionally prosecute them for this act of worship, they, like the Amish, may be “forced to migrate to some other and more tolerant region.

Whether or not the decisions are that limited, they at least have nothing to do with an across-the-board criminal prohibition on a particular form of conduct. The court therefore reaffirmed its previous ruling that the State could not deny unemployment benefits to respondents for having engaged in that practice.

Our conclusion that generally applicable, religion-neutral laws that have the effect of burdening a particular religious practice need not be justified by a compelling governmental interest is the only approach compatible with these precedents. This Court, however, consistently has rejected similar arguments in past free exercise cases, and it should do so here as well.

Employment Division v. Smith

It is not the State’s broad interest Page U. For the Court to deem this command a “luxury,” ante at U. Indeed, it is surely unusual to judge the vitality of a constitutional doctrine by looking to the win-loss record of the plaintiffs who happen to come before us We held that distinction to be critical, for if Oregon does prohibit the religious use of peyote, and if u.s.872 prohibition is consistent with the Federal Constitution, there is no federal right u.s.827 engage in that conduct in Oregon, and the State is free to withhold unemployment compensation from respondents for engaging in work-related misconduct, despite its religious motivation.


The First Amendment, however, does not distinguish between laws that are generally applicable and laws that target particular religious practices. Yoder said that the Court’s holding in Pierce stands as a charter of the rights of parents to direct the religious upbringing of their children. 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.

Respondents contend that, because u.s.87 Oregon Supreme Court declined to decide whether the Oregon Constitution prohibits criminal prosecution for the religious use of peyote, see id.

Indian Religion and Philosophy D. As she points out, “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. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed that determination, holding that the denial of benefits 449 respondents’ free exercise rights under the First Amendment.

If, for example, a religious adherent believes war is a sin, and if a certain percentage of the federal budget can be identified as devoted to war-related activities, such individuals would have a similarly valid claim to be exempt from paying that percentage of the income tax. Indeed, not even Smith and Black disputed that Oregon’s interest in outlawing peyote was compelling. Comer Masterpiece Cakeshop v. United States decision: The court therefore reaffirmed its previous ruling that the State could not deny unemployment benefits to respondents for having engaged in that practice.

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

Massachusetts Redrup v. For the Court to deem this command a “luxury,” ante atis to denigrate “[t]he very purpose of a Bill of Rights. Far from promoting the u.d.872 and irresponsible use of drugs, Native American Church members’ spiritual code exemplifies values that Oregon’s drug laws are presumably intended to foster.


United States Memoirs v. But since Justice Douglas voted with the u.s8.72 in Sherbert, that quote obviously envisioned that what “the government cannot do to the individual” includes not just the prohibition of an individual’s freedom of action through criminal laws, but also the running of its programs in Sherbert, state unemployment compensation in such fashion as to harm the individual’s religious interests.

That we did not apply the compelling interest test in these cases says nothing about whether the test should continue to apply in paradigm free exercise cases such as the one presented here.

United States, 98 U. Oregon law prohibits the knowing or intentional possession of a “controlled substance” unless the substance has been prescribed by a medical practitioner. In addition, other Schedule I drugs such as cannabis have lawful uses.

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. Respondents, of course, do not contend that their conduct is automatically immune from all governmental regulation simply because it is motivated by their sincere religious beliefs. Also, the availability of peyote for religious use, even if Oregon were to allow an exemption from its criminal laws, would still be strictly controlled by federal regulations, see 21 U.

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

44 an exemption for religious peyote use would not necessarily oblige the State to grant a similar exemption to other religious groups. Since the State could not constitutionally enforce its criminal prohibition against respondents, the interests underlying the State’s drug laws cannot justify its denial of unemployment benefits. They were fired because they had ingested peyotea powerful entheogenas part of their religious ceremonies u.d.872 members of the Native American Church.

Because respondents’ ingestion of peyote was prohibited under Oregon law, u.s.872 because that prohibition is constitutional, Oregon may, consistent with the Free Exercise Clause, deny respondents unemployment compensation when their dismissal results from use of the drug. Gobitis, supra, U. See also Hobbie, supra, U.