Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sherbert v. Verner case brief

Sherbert v. Verner case brief summary
374 U.S. 398 (1963)

Appellant unemployment compensation claimant challenged a judgment of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, which held that appellee employment commission's denial of unemployment benefits to the claimant did not infringe her constitutional liberties, as the state statute placed no restriction upon her freedom of religion nor did it prevent her from observing her religious beliefs.

Appellant claimant lost her job after she declined to work on Saturdays because her religion forbade it. Unable to find other work for the same reason, she applied for unemployment benefits. Appellee employment commission declined to extend benefits, finding that her religious restriction disqualified her. The courts below affirmed the findings, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

  • The Court found that the disqualification of benefits imposed a burden on the free exercise of the claimant's religion because the ruling put pressure on her to forego her practice in order to accept work, or to forfeit benefits by following her religion. 
  • The condition effectively penalized the free exercise of her constitutional liberties. 
  • The Court also noted that a South Carolina statute exempted Sunday worshippers from having to make that same choice. 
  • The Court found no compelling state interest for enforcing the substantial infringement because there was no abuse or danger that justified the infringement, and a mere showing of a rational relationship to a colorable state interest was insufficient.
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment that determined that the claimant was ineligible for unemployment benefits. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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