100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.
The Free Exercise of Religion
“I was Only Going to Church”
Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith
494 U.S. 872 (1990)
Alfred Leo Smith, a Klamath Indian, was born November 6, 1919, in a small river town located in the Klamath Reservation at the foot of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. Life on the reservation was difficult. Smith describes it as a “kind of prison.” Klamath Indians enjoyed limited freedoms and were prohibited from practicing native rituals, as the federal government implemented its policy of assimilating Indians into white society. When Smith was a young boy, representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs enrolled him in a Catholic school located off the reservation where he was taught Catholicism every day. Transfers to ...