Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources v Smith – 19.06

Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources v Smith
Digest no. 19.06

Cite as: Employment Div, Oregon Dep’t of Human Resources v Smith, 110 S Ct 1595 (1990).

Appeal pending:
No
Claimant: Alfred Smith and Galen Black
Employer: N/A
Docket no.: S.Ct. 88-1213
Date of decision: April 17, 1990

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: Claimants discharged for using illegal drugs as part of a religious sacrament may be disqualified from receipt of unemployment compensation benefits without violation of First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion.

FACTS: Claimant’s were discharged from their jobs at a private drug rehabilitation organization because they ingested peyote for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of the Native American Church of which both are members. They were determined to be disqualified for benefits because their discharge was for work related misconduct.

DECISION: Claimants are disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits when their discharge results from the use of illegal drugs even though the drug is part of a religious sacrament.

RATIONALE: If a State has prohibited through its criminal laws certain kinds of religiously motivated conduct without violating the First Amendment it follows that the State may impose the lesser burden of denying unemployment compensation benefits to persons who engage in that conduct. The right of free exercise of religion does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91