The Supreme Court on Santería - 9
Text of the court ruling
Commentary on the text
3 [508 U.S. 520, 532]
    In our Establishment Clause cases, we have often stated the principle that the First Amendment forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion or of religion in general. See, e.g., Board of Ed. of Westside Community Schools (Dist. 66) v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 248 (1990) (plurality opinion); School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U.S. 373, 389 (1985); Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 56 (1985); Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 106-107 (1968); School Dist. of Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963); Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947). These cases, however, for the most part, have addressed governmental efforts to benefit religion or particular religions, and so have dealt with a question different, at least in its formulation and emphasis, from the issue here. Petitioners allege an attempt to disfavor their religion because of the religious ceremonies it commands, and the Free Exercise Clause is dispositive in our analysis.

     [At a minimum, the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons.] See, e.g., Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 607 (1961) (plurality opinion); Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67, 69-70 (1953). Indeed, it was ["historical instances of religious persecution and intolerance that gave concern to those who drafted the Free Exercise Clause."] Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693, 703 (1986) (opinion of Burger, C.J.). See J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 991-992 (abridged ed. 1833) (reprint 1987); T. Cooley, Constitutional Limitations 467 (1868) (reprint 1972); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 464, and n. 2 (1961) (opinion of Frankfurter, J.); Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 179 (1943) (Jackson, J., concurring in result); [508 U.S. 520, 533] Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 342 (1890). These principles, though not often at issue in our Free Exercise Clause cases, have played a role in some. In McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618 (1978), for example, we invalidated a state law that disqualified members of the clergy from holding certain public offices, because it "impose[d] special disabilities on the basis of . . . religious status," Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U.S., at  877. On the same principle, in Fowler v. Rhode Island, supra, we found that a municipal ordinance was applied in an unconstitutional manner when interpreted to prohibit preaching in a public park by a Jehovah's Witness, but to permit preaching during the course of a Catholic mass or Protestant church service. See also Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268, 272-273 (1951). Cf. Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228 (1982) (state statute that treated some religious denominations more favorably than others violated the Establishment Clause).  4

Title Page
Opinions, Briefs, Arguments
I  Overview
I-A  Santería Religion
I-B  Case History
II  Free Exercise Clause
II-A  Neutrality
II-A-1  Compelling Interest
II-A-2  Equal Protection
II-A-3  Summary
II-B  General Applicability
III  Ordinances Fail Scrutiny
IV  Conclusion
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