• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Employment Division v. Smith (1990)

  • By: Elizabeth Price Foley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

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” ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles