EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
86-946
Petitioner 
Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of the State of Oregon et al.
Respondent 
Alfred Smith
Consolidation 
No. 86-947, Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of the State of Oregon, et al. v. Black
Advocates
(Deputy Attorney General of Oregon, argued the cause for petitioners)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

Alfred Smith and Galen Black worked at a private drug rehabilitation clinic. The clinic fired them because they used a hallucinogenic drug called peyote for religious purposes while worshipping at their Native American Church. The Oregon Employment Division denied them unemployment compensation because it deemed they were fired for work-related "misconduct." The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that this violated their religious free exercise rights provided by the First Amendment. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed.

Question 

Can a state deny unemployment benefits to a worker fired for using prohibited drugs for religious purposes?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Employment Division, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Free Exercise of Religion

Undecided. Justice John Paul Stevens delivered the opinion for a 5-3 court. The Court instructed the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether peyote usage for religious purposes is prohibited under Oregon law, or only by the employer. The Court required this information to consider the constitutionality of the denial of benefits.

Cite this Page
EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_946>.
EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_946 (last visited July 28, 2014).
"EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 28, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_946.