Constitutional Law Keyed to Feldman
Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources v. Smith
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The Respondents, Alfred Smith and Galen Black (Respondents), were fired from their jobs for using peyote for sacramental purposes at a ceremony at their Native American Church. When Respondents applied to the Petitioner, Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources (Petitioner), for unemployment compensation, they were determined ineligible for benefits because they had been discharged for work-related “misconduct.” The Oregon Supreme Court found on remand that the Respondents’ peyote use fell within the prohibition of Oregon’s criminal laws, that those laws made no exception for sacramental use of the drug, but the ban on the sacramental peyote use was invalid under the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution. Thus, Oregon could not deny unemployment benefits for engaging in conduct that was constitutionally protected.
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