Employment Division v. Smith
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This consequential Supreme Court opinion stated that with limited exceptions, citizens could not be exempt from generally applicable and religiously neutral laws because those laws burdened their free exercise of religion. In this case, two substance abuse rehabilitation counselors were terminated from their jobs for using peyote as part of a Native American Church ceremony. They applied for unemployment compensation from the state of Oregon and were denied. The Oregon Supreme Court revised that denial on free exercise grounds, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that court's decision and refused to apply the compelling state interest test articulated in Sherbert v. Verner (1963) to decide whether the claimants should receive unemployment benefits. See the entries for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the court's City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) decision for more on how state and federal lawmakers responded to the Smith decision.
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Peyote Cactus- US Fish and Wildlife Service photo

Chief Justice William Rehnquist- US Department of Justice

Supreme Court building- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-highsm-12575
Book/Journal Source(s)
Jurinski, James John, 2004. Religion on Trial: A Handbook with Cases, Laws, and Documents. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO..
Web Page Contributor
Robert Martin
Affliated with: Assistant Professor, Southeastern Lousiana University

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