Appeared in Autumn 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 3
“[N]o society will long survive if in its public structure it is built agnostically and materialistically and wishes to permit anything else to exist only below the threshold of the public.” -Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
On April 17, 1990 the United States Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Antonin Scalia, decided the case of Employment Division v. Smith. In this case, two men, 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 [Smith and Black] applied to [the Oregon] Employment Division . . . for unemployment compensation, they were determined to be ineligible for benefits because they had been discharged for work-related “misconduct.”
On appeal from the Supreme Court of Oregon, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Smith and Black, because it determined that “neutral, generally applicable” laws, which are directed to some secular purpose, and only incidentally infringe on religious practice, may be enforced even though religious believers are thereby inconvenienced.
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