Narrowly interpreting the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that the states were not required to make a religious exception for the use of illegal drugs.
Alfred Smith and another Native American were fired from their jobs after their employer discovered that they occasionally smoked the hallucinogenic drug peyote as a part of tribal religious ceremonies. The use of peyote was illegal in Oregon, and the state’s policy was to deny unemployment benefits to anyone discharged for work-related misconduct. The two men argued that the denial of benefits unconstitutionally infringed on their right to religious freedom. Their lawyers referred to Sherbert v. Verner (1963),
In the Smith case, however, the Supreme Court voted six to three to uphold Oregon’s policy. Justice Antonin Scalia
Boerne v. Flores
Religion, freedom of
Sherbert v. Verner