Congress Shall Make No Law: Religious Freedom, And The Absolutist Exercise Thereof

As of April of this year, some twenty states had enacted so-called “religious freedom” laws, with similar legislation pending in another half-dozen states. But why do states need such laws when the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion? The modern “religious freedom” movement, which took hold during the Clinton administration, was in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 1990 (“Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith“). The case “determined that the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the drug was part of a religious ritual.”

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