FRAZEE V. ILL. DEPT. OF EMPL. SECUR., 489 U. S. 829 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Frazee v. Ill. Dept. of Empl. Secur., 489 U.S. 829 (1989)

Frazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security

No. 87-1945

Argued March 1, 1989

Decided March 29, 1989

489 U.S. 829


Appellant, who refused a temporary retail position because the job would have required him to work on Sunday in violation of his personal religious beliefs, applied for, and was denied, unemployment compensation benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative review board, an Illinois Circuit Court, and the State Appellate Court, which found that, since appellant was not a member of an established religious sect or church and did not claim that his refusal to work resulted from a tenet, belief, or teaching of an established religious body, his personal professed religious belief, although unquestionably sincere, was not good cause for his refusal to work on Sunday.

Held: The denial of unemployment compensation benefits to appellant on the ground that his refusal to work was not based on tenets or dogma of an established religious sect violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U. S. 398, Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U. S. 707, and Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida, 480 U. S. 136, rested on the fact that each of the claimants had a sincere belief that religion required him or her to refrain from the work in question, not on the consideration that each of them was a member of a particular religious sect or on any tenet of the sect forbidding such work. While membership in a sect would simplify the problem of identifying sincerely held beliefs, the notion that one must be responding to the commands of a particular religious organization to claim the protection of the Free Exercise Clause is rejected. The sincerity or religious nature of appellant's belief was not questioned by the courts below, and was conceded by the State, which offered no justification for the burden that the denial of benefits placed on appellant's right to exercise his religion. The fact that Sunday work has become a way of life does not constitute a state interest sufficiently compelling to override a legitimate free-exercise claim, since there is no evidence that there will be a mass movement away from Sunday employment if appellant succeeds on his claim. Pp. 489 U. S. 832-835.

159 Ill.App.3d 474, 512 N.E.2d 789, reversed and remanded.

Page 489 U. S. 830

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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