Employment Divison V. Smith

Eli Kutler
Media Law
Professor Thomas
Brief #1
Employment Division v. Smith

Alfred Smith and Galen Black were fired from a drug and alcohol treatment agency where they worked as counselors for admitting they used peyote, which is an illegal drug, for the use of “religious ceremonies.” The use of illegal drugs violates the agencies policy and according to the agency, were grounds for “immediate termination from employment.” Smith and Black were denied from unemployment benefits so they decide to sue. After winning in Oregon Supreme Court, the State appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was sent back down for judge clarification. After being reaffirmed, the State appealed a second time to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment provides that Congress can pass no law establishing or prohibiting a religion.

Does the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment permit the State of Oregon to allow the use of peyote in religious beliefs ad thus permitting the State to deny unemployment benefits to those who are fired for doing so?

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to uphold Oregon’s denial for unemployment benefits to Smith and Black.


1.While the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment says Congress cannot pass a law regulating their religion, this does not excuse them from complian 2.ce with other valid laws prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. 3.Oregon’s drug laws do not attempt to regulate religious beliefs. They also do not attempt to regulate the communications of those beliefs 4.If “Compelling interest” is to be applied then it must be applied to all, and if that conduct is “central” to an individual religion then many laws will not hold up. 5.Cannot afford the luxury, of deeming presumptively invalid, as applied to the religious objected. 6.Respondents ingestion of peyote was prohibited under Oregon law, Oregon may, consistent with...
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