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United States v. Ballard

    Brief Fact Summary. Ballard (Respondent) was charged with defrauding the public by practicing a religion that he knew was false.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Religion is determined by the sincerity and depth of the belief, not by whether it is true or false.

    Facts. Respondent was convicted of using the mail to defraud the public. He organized a religious group. He claimed that he had supernatural powers to heal the sick and diseased. The charge indicated that Respondent knew that these claims were false.

    Issue. Is Respondent being unconstitutionally persecuted for his religious beliefs?

    Held. Yes. Although Respondent’s religion seems incredible to most, it is not the role of a jury to determine its veracity. If this religion were subject to such a trial, then all organized religions would need to be treated similarly.

    Dissent. The government cannot prove that Respondent knew something was false when it opts to separate religious sincerity from verity.

    Discussion. The First Amendment protects the right to choose and practice a religion of the individual’s choice. This includes freedom to believe and freedom to act. Just because a religious doctrine cannot be proven does not mean that it is not a religion and not protected by the United States Constitution.


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