U.S. Supreme Court
Employment Div. v. Smith., 494 U.S. 872 (1990)
Employment Division, Department of
Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith
Argued Nov. 6, 1989
Decided April 17, 1990
494 U.S. 872
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OREGON
SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE,
STEVENS, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the
judgment, in Parts I and II of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined
without concurring in the judgment,
494 U. S. 891
. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting
opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined,
494 U. S. 907
Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case requires us to decide whether the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment permits
the State of Oregon to include religiously inspired peyote use within the reach of its general
criminal prohibition on use of that drug, and thus permits the State to deny unemployment
benefits to persons dismissed from their jobs because of such religiously inspired use.
Respondents Alfred Smith and Galen Black were fired from their jobs with 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. When respondents applied to
petitioner Employment Division for unemployment compensation, they were determined to be
ineligible for benefits because they had been discharged for work-related "misconduct". The
Oregon Court of Appeals reversed that determination, holding that the denial of benefits violated
respondents' free exercise rights under the First Amendment….
Respondents' claim for relief rests on our decisions in
Sherbert v. Verner, supra, Thomas v.
Review Board, Indiana Employment Security Div., supra,
Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals
Comm'n of Florida,
480 U. S. 136
(1987), in which we held that a State could not condition the
availability of unemployment insurance on an individual's willingness to forgo conduct required
by his religion.