Oregon vs. Smith

1990

Oregon vs. Smith

This cases issue was whether the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote (drug used for religious rituals).
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Is it against the right to exercise a religious ritual that uses an illegal drug?

Oregon State says: if the drug is illegal it doesn't matter what reason you have for using it.

Smith says: if you use the drug for a religious ritual then it should be okay.

Ruling

You can stop Native Americans from using an illegal drug.


Constitutional basis: First Amendment

Significance

State may deny benefits to claimants discharged from their jobs for the use of illegal drugs, even though the use is for religious purposes without violating the first amendment.