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Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith

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David Song

on 12 April 2016

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Transcript of Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith

Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith
Background information
What happened?
-Smith was denied unemployment benefits after he was fired because he uses peyote as part of his religion.
Argued: Nov. 6, 1989
Decided: April 17, 1990
Impact of the Case
This case established that if the government passes a neutral law, that prohibits, for example, Oregon prohibiting the use of peyote, a religious group will not be able to avoid the law by claiming their religious beliefs require peyote.
How to remember this case?
"Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith." Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Apr 1, 2016. <https://www.oyez.org/cases/1989/88-1213>
Question the Supreme Court answered
Can a state deny unemployment benefits to a worker fired for using illegal drugs for religious purposes?
Answer/Reason from Supreme Court

Answer: The Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use, therefore Smith can be denied for unemployment benefits for doing something illegal.
Reason: Laws are applied to all citizens, regardless of religious belief. Smith did something illegal, even though it was for his religion.
Therefore, Smith lost the case by a vote of 3-6.
By David Song
Remember that prohibition laws are #1 over your religious rituals although Amendment #1 gives people free exercise of religion.
"Employment Division v. Smith." Legal Information Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 5
Apr. 2016. <https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/494/
"Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith." Case Briefs. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/ law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-chemerinsky/first-amendment-religion/employment-division-department-of-human-resources-of-oregon-v-smith/2/>.
Smith felt that he wasn't given the freedom of expressing his religion (first amendment) and felt that he should also be given unemployment benefits.
ProCon.org. "Employment Division v. Smith" ProCon.org. 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2016. <http://aclu.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000544>.
Full transcript