[508 U.S. 520, 531]
The Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment, which has been applied to the States through the Fourteenth
Amendment, see Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310
U.S. 296, 303 (1940), provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
. . ." (Emphasis added.) The city does not argue that Santeria is not a
"religion" within the meaning of the First Amendment. Nor could it. Although
the practice of animal sacrifice may seem abhorrent to some, "religious
beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible
to others in order to merit First Amendment protection." Thomas v. Review
Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450
U.S. 707, 714 (1981). Given the historical association between animal
sacrifice and religious worship, see supra, at 2 [sic. Reference is apparently
to p. 524 - PB], petitioners' assertion
that animal sacrifice is an integral part of their religion "cannot be
deemed bizarre or incredible." Frazee v. Illinois Dept. of Employment Security,
U.S. 829, 834, n. 2 (1989). Neither the city nor the courts below,
moreover, have questioned the sincerity of petitioners' professed desire
to conduct animal sacrifices for religious reasons. We must consider petitioners'
First Amendment claim.
In addressing the constitutional protection
for free exercise of religion, our cases establish the general proposition
that [a law that is neutral and of general applicability need not be justified
by a compelling governmental interest even if the law has the incidental
effect of burdening a particular religious practice.] Employment Div.,
Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, supra.
Neutrality and general applicability are [interrelated], and, as becomes
apparent in this case, failure to satisfy one requirement is a likely indication
that the other has not been satisfied. A law failing to satisfy these requirements
must be justified by a compelling governmental interest, and must be narrowly
tailored to [508
U.S. 520, 532] advance that interest. These ordinances [fail
to satisfy the Smith requirements.] We begin by discussing neutrality.