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NCJ Number: 166904 Find in a Library
Title: Swallowing the Scroll: Legal Implications of the Recent Supreme Court Peyote Cases
Journal: Journal of Psychoactive Drugs  Volume:22  Issue:3  Dated:(July-September 1990)  Pages:325-332
Author(s): R K Bullis
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 8
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In 1988 and 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases involving the religious use of peyote by Native American Church members.
Abstract: Both decisions involved the same plaintiffs, defendants, and factual situations. The case was brought by American Indian drug counselors who were dismissed from their Oregon employment for ingesting peyote at a worship service of the Native American Church. The counselors were denied unemployment compensation and related benefits. The cases involved issues of equal protection of the laws and religious liberty under the First Amendment, as well as of traditional Western interpretations of sacrament. The six to three decision of the Supreme Court establishes a new legal precedent that runs contrary to previous State and lower Federal court decisions that allow for the use of sacramental peyote by Native American Church members. The Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that States may prohibit the use of peyote for religious purposes. The ruling did not dispute the centrality and even sacramentality of peyote use in the Native American Church. However, the decision has both legal and religious implications for sacramental peyote use and perhaps for other religious practices. The decision goes well beyond a narrow decision denying unemployment compensation. It also may deter the expression of nontraditional, nonwestern religious practices. It is not yet clear whether other States will follow Oregon's lead and begin to impose sanctions against those who use peyote sacramentally. Figure and 23 references
Main Term(s): Drug abuse
Index Term(s): American Indians; Employee dismissal; Religious freedom; US Supreme Court decisions
Note: DCC
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