Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, Sherbert (Appellant) a Seventh Day Adventist, brought suit alleging South Carolina’s unemployment scheme was unfair as it disqualified her for compensation when she could not find a job that comported with her religious practice.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case stands for the fact that no law or statutory scheme should abridge an individual’s free exercise of religion.
Nor may the South Carolina court's construction of the statute be saved from constitutional infirmity on the ground that unemployment compensation benefits are not appellant's right but merely a privilege.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The facial issue presented by this case is whether the unemployment scheme of South Carolina violated the Petitioner’s First Amendment Rights under the Free Exercise Clause.
The Supreme Court declined to hold that a constitutional right to unemployment exists on the part of all persons terminated due to their religious convictions.
Rather, the Supreme Court held that the State could not apply eligibility provisions to the extent that they constrain a worker from observing a religious day of rest.
Dissent. Justice John Harlan (J. Harlan) dissented, noting the purpose of unemployment was to help people get through when work was unavailable. In this case, it is arguable that work is unavailable, save for the Petitioner’s religious restrictions.
Concurrence. Justice Stewart (J. Stewart) concurred, maintaining that the denial of benefits is enough to infringe on the free exercise of religion.
Discussion. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment stands for the tenant that no law should be created that would deter an individual from the free exercise of his religion. In this case, South Carolina’s unemployment scheme, if allowed to stand, would have violated this clause.