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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Follow-up to post on atheists/agnostics and the Free Exercise Clause

This is a follow-up to my earlier post, in which I questioned whether a person who refuses to eat a cheeseburger for no reason other than, say, to keep the inlaws happy, could be fired by her government employer.  The post generated more comments than I expected, as well as trackbacks and comments on other blogs, including the ReligionClause blog and The Debate Link.

I just completed a bit of actual research on this topic.  (I know!  I'm as shocked as you at this development!)  Generally speaking, it seems that mainstream religious practices (read: Judeo-Christian) are protected as a matter of course, and courts do not even question the sincerity of the belief behind it.  (Query, as I did to start this discussion, what courts would do if the practitioner openly broadcasts that she has no sincere religious beliefs.)  By contrast, in the case of non-mainstream religious practices, courts do look to the sincerity of the practitioner's belief.

In Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Sec. Division, 450 U.S. 707, 715 (1981), the Court states that "[o]ne can, of course, imagine an asserted claim so bizarre, so clearly nonreligious in motivation, as not to be entitled to protection under the Free Exercise Clause[.]"

Refusing to eat a burger in order to avoid the wrath of the schver and schvigger (father- and mother-in-law) seems to me to be a "clearly nonreligious motivation" if there ever was one, unless one's inlaws generally provoke the fear of God.  Which is possible, I suppose, at least in some families...

Posted by Hillel Levin on May 10, 2005 at 02:41 PM | Permalink

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» Cheeseburgers and Church/State Jurisprudence from The Debate Link
Prawfs Blawg was kind enough to link to my non-thoughts on so-called "practicing non-believers," so I'll actually give him some real thoughts this time around. [Read More]

Tracked on May 10, 2005 5:27:27 PM

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