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Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon
Transcript of Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon
Why is this case so important?
would typically be used to decide similar cases
Justice Antonin Scalia declared that only when a law
targeted religion, or
religious exercise and such freedoms as press, speech etc. could a free-exercise challenge succeed.
If "prohibiting the exercise of religion . . . [is] merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended."
B6 AP GOV & POLI
By Marina and Claudia
Landmark Supreme Court Cases Project
Time for a Quiz...
Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith
Employment Division of the Department of Human Resources of Oregon
: Alfred Smith
took place in Oregon within the Department of Human Respources
Before the Supreme Court
Argued on Nov 6, 1989
Decided on April 17, 1990
Two cases that was used as precedent for this decision were:
Sherbert v. Verner
which discussed "governmental actions that substantially burden a religious practice must be justified by a compelling governmental interest"
Reynolds v. United States
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 is “compelling” — permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, “to become a law unto himself,”
two Native Americans worked for a private drug rehabilitation organization
one day they ingested peyote (powerful hallicunugen) as part of their religious ceremonies as members of the Native American Church
these two men were fired and then filed a claim for unemployment compensation
However, they were denied unemployment benefits because they were fired over work-related misconduct
The Oregon State Court ruled in favor of the DHR
Then the case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court
in favor of the Empoyment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon
Supreme Court Decision
Justice Scalia wrote for the majority and stated that "the court has
never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting onduct that government is free to regulate.
open the prospect of constitutionally required exempltions
from civic obligations
of almost every concievable kind.
In other words, this
does not violate the free excercise of religon in the First Amendment
does not target the religion of the Native American Church
but peyote users, therefore does not involve adherence to valid, nondisriminatory laws and regulations
It is a landmark in religious freedom jurisprudence
1. determine if the law burdens the claimant's ability to exercise his or her religion.
2. decide whether or not the law serves a "compelling government interest."
3. find whether or not an exemption to the law would undermine that interest.
The Supreme Court made the case a landmark by
overturning the Sherbert standard
and establishing a new rule of law
The Supreme Court maintained that states weren't required to allow religiously-based exemptions to such general laws
Effect on the Unemployment Insurance Program:
States may deny benefits to claimants discharged from their jobs for the use of illegal drugs, even though the use is for religious purposes, without violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Instantly controversial; Opponents of the decision, fearing restrictions on religious practice, united to form the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion (CFER) and lobbied Congress
Triggered a separation of powers crisis