Sherbert v. Verner (1963)

Sherbert V. Verner 
374 U.S. 398 (1963)
June 17, 1963


Syllabus

Appellant, a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, was discharged by her South Carolina employer because she would not work on Saturday, the Sabbath Day of her faith. She was unable to obtain other employment because she would not work on Saturday, and she filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits under the South Carolina Unemployment Compensation Act, which provides that a claimant is ineligible for benefits if he has failed, without good cause, to accept available suitable work when offered him. The State Commission denied appellant’s application on the ground that she would not accept suitable work when offered, and its action was sustained by the State Supreme Court.

Held: As so applied, the South Carolina statute abridged appellant’s right to the free exercise of her religion, in violation of the First Amendment, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 399-410.

(a) Disqualification of appellant for unemployment compensation benefits, solely because of her refusal to accept employment in which she would have to work on Saturday contrary to her religious belief, imposes an unconstitutional burden on the free exercise of her religion. Pp. 403-406.

(b) There is no compelling state interest enforced in the eligibility provisions of the South Carolina statute which justifies the substantial infringement of appellant’s right to religious freedom under the First Amendment. Pp. 406-409.

(c) This decision does not foster the “establishment” of the Seventh-Day Adventist religion in South Carolina contrary to theFirst Amendment. Pp. 409-410.

[Sherbert v. Verner. No.526. 374 U.S. 398 (1963). June 17, 1963. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/.]