Employment Division v. Smith (1990)

In Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, the Supreme Court upheld a state's decision to deny unemployment compensation benefits to workers fired by a private employer because they had ingested peyote as part of a religious ceremony. Peyote is a hallucinogenic prohibited under both federal and state controlled substances law. The workers argued that the denial of benefits violated their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that a religiously neutral law of general applicability does not violate the right to free exercise of religion.

The Smith majority rejected the workers’ assertion that, because Oregon's action interfered with the workers’ ability to practice their religion, the Court should apply “strict scrutiny” ...

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