The Law School Authority

Sherbert v. Verner Case Brief

Summary of Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963)

Facts: A member of 7th Day Adventist Church was fired from her E’r b/c she wouldn’t work on Saturday–Sabbath.  Subsequently, she was unable to obtain other employment so she sought unemployment benefits.

Issue(s): Whether a state’s eligibility criterion for unemployment benefits can compel a worker to abandon their religious belief regarding which day of rest?

Holding: No.  A state may not constitutionally apply the eligibility provisions for unemployment compensation so as to constrain a worker to relinquish their religious practices regarding the day of rest.

Procedure: Filed claim for S. Carolina Unemploymnt.  Comm’n held her reason disqualifying her availability for Saturday work was not good cause–benefits were disallowed.  S.Car. S.Ct Affirmed. U.S.S.Ct. Reversed and Remanded.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th Amend

Rationale: South Carolina saves the Sunday worshipper from making a similar choice, they may not be required to work if such a person is opposed to Sunday work.

Require Strict Scrutiny b/c only the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests give occasion for permissible limitation on First Amend religious rights.  No abuse or danger has been shown here, there is nothing more than a possibility of fraudulent unemployment claims may result.  But that contention was not offered in the court below–will not be addressed here.

The state’s asserted interest is completely different from interest held to justify a relaxed burden on religious practices in Braunfeld-that law was saved b/c strong state interest: providing a uniform day of rest.  Thus, a secular purpose could be achieved–rest 4 all.  That interest is absent here.

DISSENT: She was denied benefits just like any other claimant who was unavailable to work b/c of personal reasons, not religious reasons.


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