Smith v. Oregon Employment
SMITH V. OREGON EMPLOYMENT
SMITH V. OREGON EMPLOYMENT (Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon et al. v. Smith et al., 494 U.S. 872,1990). Alfred Smith and Galen Black were fired from their jobs because they ingested the illegal hallucinogen peyote for sacramental purposes during a Native American religious ceremony. When the men applied for unemployment benefits, the Employment Division denied the benefits because they had been discharged for "misconduct." The Oregon Supreme Court held the denial violated the men's rights under the First Amendment, which protects the "free exercise" of religion.
In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the free exercise clause permits states to prohibit sacramental peyote use and to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use. The Court reasoned that the clause does not excuse an individual from compliance with a neutral law not particularly aimed at religious conduct. The Court cited the 1879 case of Reynolds v. United States, which upheld the criminalization of polygamy, even as applied to individuals whose religion required it.
Four Justices (Harry Blackmun, W. J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O'Connor) disagreed, arguing that the opinion ignored precedent that required the government, unless it could show a compelling interest otherwise, to accommodate religiously motivated activities. Smith thus marked a shift in free exercise jurisprudence away from requiring government accommodation of religious activity toward an emphasis on formal governmental neutrality. As the Court admitted, this shift placed minority religions "at a relative disadvantage," because accommodation has to be won in the political process rather than through the courts.
Smith has been the focus of much criticism. The decision's most outspoken opponent on the Court is Justice David Souter, who joined the Court the year after Smith. Souter wrote a separate concurrence in the 1993 case of Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah to argue that Smith should be overturned.
McConnell, Michael W. "Free Exercise Revisionism and the Smith Decision." University of Chicago Law Review 57 (1990): 1109–1153. McConnell is a leading critic of Smith.
See alsoIndian Religious Life .
"Smith v. Oregon Employment." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/smith-v-oregon-employment
"Smith v. Oregon Employment." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/smith-v-oregon-employment
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.