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Law and Religion
Wayne State University Law School
Lund, Christopher C.

Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc. (1985): State statute that provides employees with the absolute right not to work on whatever day is their Sabbath is an establishment of religion.  Biggest problem was that it “thus commands that Sabbath religious concerns automatically control over all secular interests at the workplace; the statute takes no account of the convenience or interests of the employer or those of other employees who do not observe a Sabbath.”  It’s also absolute and unyielding.Lemon test: A law must 1.) have a secular purpose, 2.) have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, 3.) does not foster an excessive entanglement between government and religion.Free exercise cases (Accommodation required?)People v. Philips (1813): Cannot force a priest to disclose what he learned in confession because it violates his freedom of religion.  He would have to choose between what he sees as damnation with a civic punishment.  Lose/lose for him imposed by the government.  Also there are some secular exceptions to the rule that you must testify–including attorney/client privilege.  Possibly exception for a threat to the well-being of the state.Simon’s Executors v. Gratz (1831): Trial set for Saturday, one witness was Jewish.  He wouldn’t testify due to religious belief.  Court says that justice cannot be impeded by religious belief.  Citizen owes duty to law over relig.Reynolds v. United States (1878): Def charged with bigamy in violation of Utah statute; he’s Mormon.  Ct says that framers intended no power to regulate opinion but could regulate actions in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.  We can’t let religion trump law.  Positive act, knowingly done.Davis v. Beacon (1890): Davis arrested for trying to register to vote in Idaho, where the registrant had to take an oath that swore they would not engage in polygamy.  “However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country, passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation.”  Crime not excused b/c religiously based.Mormon Church v. United States (1890): It was ok for the gov’t to revoke charter for church and take its property since no one else was entitled to it.(Modern law if federal claim or if mini-RFRA exists)Sherbert v. Verner (1963): Appellant was of a religion that did not allow her to work on Saturday so she was fired; she filed for unemployment and was denied because the unemployment statute required that she accept work if offered.  If burden is to be upheld, it must serve a compelling state interest.  Ct says that there is a burden (because it results only from her religion, and there is substantial pressure for her to forego these beliefs).  The law also allows Sunday worshippers to be exempt from working that day, so it’s unfair.  No compelling state interest either; there is only the vague threat that some people might abuse the system by claiming Saturday worship.  Government obligation of neutrality to relig.  There are possible cases that wouldn’t pass; where there is no burden, or where there is a significant government interest, it may not.Dissent: doesn’t like that secular and religious interests are treated differently in this case, or that there is a compulsion to give benefits.Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972): Amish want to stop sending their kids to school at 14 instead of 16 which is the law for other students.  A neutral law may have by application unconstitutional effects on religion.  State has big interest in educating its citizens, but in this case, the students do attend school ’til 14, and they are never a burden on society, etc.  Even laws neutral on their face may be not be enforceable if they are a burden on religious exercise and do not fulfill a compelling state interest.(Current state of law)Employment Division v. Smith (1990): Smith discharged from work for having peyote, which is used in an American Indian religion for ceremonies; he

do Vegetal (2006): Def religion uses certain banned hallucinogen in their ceremonies, prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act of the federal gov’t.  Def said RFRA protected him.  Ct. agreed and said that Boerne only applied to the states.  Ct. here says that there is no compelling interest.  There are exemptions for some drugs for American Indian rituals; slippery slope arguments are crap; the gov’t also didn’t meet its burden of proof by submitting what international consequences it could suffer by allowing this use.Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993): Hialeah, when it heard that the church was going to start a branch there, passed an ordinance prohibiting animal sacrifice for ritual, which they do in the church.  It did not prohibit animal killing for food or other reasons.  Generally, if law is neutral and generally applicable, it doesn’t matter if it has a burden on exercise of religion.  However, if the law doesn’t satisfy those two requirements, it must pass the compelling interest and narrowly tailored standard.  1.) Not neutral, because it doesn’t ban any other type of animal slaughter, even ones that are as “cruel.”  Religious practice is singled out here because there are many exemptions.  Also was enacted specifically to target Santeria unfairly.  2.) Not generally applicable, because the ordinances stated purpose of “protecting the public health and preventing cruelty to animals” are underinclusive for that purpose.  So even though the interest to the community may be compelling, the ordinance is not drawn in narrow terms to accomplish those interests.