CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to consider whether the State's denial of unemployment compensation benefits to the petitioner, a Jehovah's Witness who terminated his job because his religious beliefs forbade participation in the production of armaments, constituted a violation of his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. 444 U.S. 1070 (1980).
Thomas terminated his employment in the Blaw-Knox Foundry & Machinery Co. when he was transferred from the roll foundry to a department that produced turrets for military tanks. He claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from participating in the production of war materials. The respondent Review Board denied him unemployment compensation benefits by applying disqualifying provisions of the Indiana Employment Security Act.
Approximately a year later, the roll foundry closed, and Blaw-Knox transferred Thomas to a department that fabricated turrets for military tanks. On his first day at this new job, Thomas realized that the work he was doing was weapons related. He checked the bulletin board where in-plant openings were listed, and discovered that all of the remaining departments at Blaw-Knox were engaged directly in the production of weapons. Since no transfer to another department would resolve his problem, he asked for a layoff. When that request was denied, he quit, asserting that he could not work on weapons without violating the principles of his religion. The record does not show that he was offered any non-weapons work by his employer, or that any such work was available.
Upon leaving Blaw-Knox, Thomas applied for unemployment compensation benefits under the Indiana Employment Security Act.
When asked at the hearing to explain what kind of work his religious convictions would permit, Thomas said that he would have no difficulty doing the type of work that he had done at the roll foundry. He testified that he could, in good conscience, engage indirectly in the production of materials that might be used ultimately to fabricate arms—for example, as an employee of a raw material supplier or of a roll foundry.
The hearing referee found that Thomas' religious beliefs specifically precluded him from producing or directly aiding in the manufacture of items used in warfare.
The referee concluded nonetheless that Thomas' termination was not based upon a "good cause [arising] in connection with [his] work," as required by the Indiana unemployment compensation statute. Accordingly, he was held not entitled to benefits. The Review Board adopted the referee's findings and conclusions, and affirmed the denial of benefits.
The Indiana Court of Appeals, accepting the finding that Thomas terminated his employment "due to his religious convictions," reversed the decision of the Review Board, and held that § 22-4-15-1, as applied, improperly burdened Thomas' right to the free exercise of his religion. Accordingly, it ordered the Board to extend benefits to Thomas. 178 Ind. App. —, 381 N.E.2d 888 (1978).
The Supreme Court of Indiana, dividing 3-2, vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals, and denied Thomas benefits. 271 Ind. —, 391 N.E.2d 1127 (1979). With reference to the Indiana unemployment compensation statute, the court said:
The court held that Thomas had quit voluntarily for personal reasons, and therefore did not qualify for benefits. Id., at —, 391 N. E. 2d, at 1130.
In discussing the petitioner's free exercise claim, the court stated: "A personal philosophical choice rather than a religious choice, does not rise to the level of a first amendment claim." Id., at —, 391 N. E. 2d, at 1131. The court found the basis and the precise nature of Thomas' belief unclear—but it concluded that the belief was more "personal philosophical choice" than religious belief. Nonetheless, it held that, even assuming that Thomas quit for religious reasons, he would not be entitled to benefits: under Indiana law, a termination motivated by religion is not for "good cause" objectively related to the work.
The Indiana court concluded that denying Thomas benefits would create only an indirect burden on his free exercise right and that the burden was justified by the legitimate state interest in preserving the integrity of the insurance fund and maintaining a stable work force by encouraging workers not to leave their jobs for personal reasons.
Finally, the court held that awarding unemployment compensation benefits to a person who terminates employment voluntarily for religious reasons, while denying such benefits to persons who terminate for other personal but nonreligious reasons, would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The judgment under review must be examined in light of our prior decisions, particularly Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963).
Only beliefs rooted in religion are protected by the Free Exercise Clause, which, by its terms, gives special protection to the exercise of religion. Sherbert v. Verner, supra; Wisconsin
In support of his claim for benefits, Thomas testified:
Based upon this and other testimony, the referee held that Thomas "quit due to his religious convictions."
The Indiana Supreme Court apparently took a different view of the record. It concluded that "although the claimant's reasons for quitting were described as religious, it was unclear what his belief was, and what the religious basis of his belief was."
The court found this position inconsistent with Thomas' stated opposition to participation in the production of armaments. But Thomas' statements reveal no more than that he found work in the roll foundry sufficiently insulated from producing weapons of war. We see, therefore, that Thomas drew a line, and it is not for us to say that the line he drew was an unreasonable one. Courts should not undertake to dissect religious beliefs because the believer admits that he is "struggling" with his position or because his beliefs are not articulated with the clarity and precision that a more sophisticated person might employ.
The Indiana court also appears to have given significant weight to the fact that another Jehovah's Witness had no scruples about working on tank turrets; for that other Witness, at least, such work was "scripturally" acceptable. Intrafaith differences of that kind are not uncommon among followers of a particular creed, and the judicial process is singularly ill equipped to resolve such differences in relation to the Religion Clauses. One can, of course, imagine an asserted claim so bizarre, so clearly nonreligious in motivation, as not to be entitled to protection under the Free Exercise Clause; but that is not the case here, and the guarantee of free exercise is not limited to beliefs which are shared by all of the members
The narrow function of a reviewing court in this context is to determine whether there was an appropriate finding that petitioner terminated his work because of an honest conviction that such work was forbidden by his religion. Not surprisingly, the record before the referee and the Review Board was not made with an eye to the microscopic examination often exercised in appellate judicial review. However, judicial review is confined to the facts as found and conclusions drawn. On this record, it is clear that Thomas terminated his employment for religious reasons.
More than 30 years ago, the Court held that a person may not be compelled to choose between the exercise of a First Amendment right and participation in an otherwise available public program. A state may not
Later, in Sherbert the Court examined South Carolina's attempt to deny unemployment compensation benefits to a Sabbatarian who declined to work on Saturday. In sustaining her right to receive benefits, the Court held:
The respondent Review Board argues, and the Indiana Supreme Court held, that the burden upon religion here is only the indirect consequence of public welfare legislation that the State clearly has authority to enact. "Neutral objective standards must be met to qualify for compensation." 271 Ind., at —, 391 N. E. 2d, at 1130. Indiana requires applicants for unemployment compensation to show that they left work for "good cause in connection with the work." Ibid.
A similar argument was made and rejected in Sherbert, however. It is true that, as in Sherbert, the Indiana law does not compel a violation of conscience. But, "this is only the beginning, not the end, of our inquiry." 374 U. S., at 403-404. In a variety of ways we have said that "[a] regulation neutral on its face may, in its application, nonetheless offend the constitutional requirement for governmental neutrality if it unduly burdens the free exercise of religion." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U. S., at 220. Cf. Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664 (1970).
Here, as in Sherbert, the employee was put to a choice between fidelity to religious belief or cessation of work; the coercive impact on Thomas is indistinguishable from Sherbert, where the Court held:
Where the state conditions receipt of an important benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith, or where it denies
The respondents also contend that Sherbert is inapposite because, in that case, the employee was dismissed by the employer's action. But we see that Mrs. Sherbert was dismissed because she refused to work on Saturdays after the plant went to a 6-day workweek. Had Thomas simply presented himself at the Blaw-Knox plant turret line but refused to perform any assigned work, it must be assumed that he, like Sherbert, would have been terminated by the employer's action, if no other work was available. In both cases, the termination flowed from the fact that the employment, once acceptable, became religiously objectionable because of changed conditions.
The mere fact that the petitioner's religious practice is burdened by a governmental program does not mean that an exemption accommodating his practice must be granted. The state may justify an inroad on religious liberty by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving some compelling state interest. However, it is still true that "[t]he essence of all that has been said and written on the subject is that only those interests of the highest order . . . can overbalance legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion." Wisconsin v. Yoder, supra, at 215.
The purposes urged to sustain the disqualifying provision of the Indiana unemployment compensation scheme are two-fold: (1) to avoid the widespread unemployment and the consequent burden on the fund resulting if people were permitted to leave jobs for "personal" reasons;
There is no evidence in the record to indicate that the number of people who find themselves in the predicament of choosing between benefits and religious beliefs is large enough to create "widespread unemployment," or even to seriously affect unemployment—and no such claim was advanced by the Review Board. Similarly, although detailed inquiry by employers into applicants' religious beliefs is undesirable, there is no evidence in the record to indicate that such inquiries will occur in Indiana, or that they have occurred in any of the states that extend benefits to people in the petitioner's position. Nor is there any reason to believe that the number of people terminating employment for religious reasons will be so great as to motivate employers to make such inquiries.
Neither of the interests advanced is sufficiently compelling to justify the burden upon Thomas' religious liberty. Accordingly, Thomas is entitled to receive benefits unless, as the respondents contend and the Indiana court held, such payment would violate the Establishment Clause.
The respondents contend that to compel benefit payments to Thomas involves the State in fostering a religious faith. There is, in a sense, a "benefit" to Thomas deriving from his religious beliefs, but this manifests no more than the tension between the two Religious Clauses which the Court resolved in Sherbert:
See also Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U. S., at 220-221; Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U. S., at 668-669; O'Hair v. Andrus, 198 U. S. App. D. C. 198, 201-204, 613 F.2d 931, 934-937 (1979) (Leventhal, J.).
Unless we are prepared to overrule Sherbert, supra, Thomas cannot be denied the benefits due him on the basis of the findings of the referee, the Review Board, and the Indiana Court of Appeals that he terminated his employment because of his religious convictions.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN joins Parts I, II, and III of the Court's opinion. As to Part IV thereof, he concurs in the result.
JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.
The Court today holds that the State of Indiana is constitutionally required to provide direct financial assistance to a person solely on the basis of his religious beliefs. Because I believe that the decision today adds mud to the already muddied waters of First Amendment jurisprudence, I dissent.
The Court correctly acknowledges that there is a "tension" between the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Although the relationship of the two Clauses has been the subject of much commentary, the "tension" is of fairly recent
None of these developments could have been foreseen by those who framed and adopted the First Amendment. The First Amendment was adopted well before the growth of much social welfare legislation and at a time when the Federal Government was in a real sense considered a government of limited delegated powers. Indeed, the principal argument against adopting the Constitution without a "Bill of Rights" was not that such an enactment would be undesirable, but that it was unnecessary because of the limited nature of the Federal Government. So long as the Government enacts little social welfare legislation, as was the case in 1791, there are few occasions in which the two Clauses may conflict. Moreover, as originally enacted, the First Amendment applied only to the Federal Government, not the government of the States. Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243 (1833). The Framers could hardly anticipate Barron being superseded by the "selective incorporation" doctrine adopted by the Court, a decision which greatly expanded the number of statutes
The decision today illustrates how far astray the Court has gone in interpreting the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. Although the Court holds that a State is constitutionally required to provide direct financial assistance to persons solely on the basis of their religious beliefs and recognizes the "tension" between the two Clauses, it does little to help resolve that tension or to offer meaningful guidance to other courts which must decide cases like this on a day-by-day basis. Instead, it simply asserts that there is no Establishment Clause violation here and leaves the tension between the two Religion Clauses to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. As suggested above, however, I believe that the "tension" is largely of this Court's own making, and would diminish almost to the vanishing point if the Clauses were properly interpreted.
Just as it did in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), the Court today reads the Free Exercise Clause more broadly than is warranted. As to the proper interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause, I would accept the decision of Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961), and the dissent in Sherbert. In Braunfeld, we held that Sunday closing laws do not violate the First Amendment rights of Sabbatarians. Chief Justice Warren explained that the statute did not make unlawful any religious practices of appellants; it simply made the practice of their religious beliefs more expensive. We concluded that "[t]o strike down, without the most critical scrutiny, legislation which imposes only an indirect burden on the exercise of religion, i. e. legislation which does not
JUSTICE STEWART noted this point in his concurring opinion in Sherbert, 374 U. S., at 414-417. He observed that decisions like Sherbert, and the one rendered today, squarely conflict with the more extreme language of many of our prior Establishment Clause cases. In Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1949), the Court stated that the Establishment Clause bespeaks a "government . . . stripped of all power . . . to support, or otherwise to assist any or all religions. . . ," and no State "can pass laws which aid one religion. . . [or] all religions." Id., at 11, 15. In Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961), the Court asserted that the government cannot "constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers." And in Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 217 (1963), the Court adopted Justice Rutledge's words in Everson that the Establishment Clause forbids " `every form of public aid or support for religion.'" See also Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 431 (1962).
In recent years the Court has moved away from the mechanistic "no-aid-to-religion" approach to the Establishment Clause and has stated a three-part test to determine the constitutionality of governmental aid to religion. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971); Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 772-773 (1973). First, the statute must serve a secular legislative purpose. Second, it must have a "primary effect" that neither advances nor inhibits religion. And third, the State and its administration must avoid excessive entanglement with religion. Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664 (1970).
It is unclear from the Court's opinion whether it has temporarily retreated from its expansive view of the Establishment Clause, or wholly abandoned it. I would welcome the latter. Just as I think that Justice Harlan in Sherbert correctly stated the proper approach to free exercise questions, I believe that JUSTICE STEWART, dissenting in Abington School District v. Schempp, supra, accurately stated the reach of the Establishment Clause. He explained that the Establishment Clause is limited to "government support of proselytizing activities of religious sects by throwing the weight of secular authorit[ies] behind the dissemination of religious tenets." Id., at 314. See McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 248 (1948) (Reed, J., dissenting)
In sum, my difficulty with today's decision is that it reads the Free Exercise Clause too broadly and it fails to squarely acknowledge that such a reading conflicts with many of our Establishment Clause cases. As such, the decision simply exacerbates the "tension" between the two Clauses. If the Court were to construe the Free Exercise Clause as it did in Braunfeld and the Establishment Clause as JUSTICE STEWART did in Schempp, the circumstances in which there would be a conflict between the two Clauses would be few and far between. Although I heartily agree with the Court's tacit abandonment of much of our rhetoric about the Establishment Clause, I regret that the Court cannot see its way clear to restore what was surely intended to have been a greater degree of flexibility to the Federal and State Governments in legislating consistently with the Free Exercise Clause. Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the Indiana Supreme Court.
Lee Boothby filed a brief for Americans United for Separation of Church and State Fund, Inc., as amicus curiae.
"With respect to benefit periods including extended benefit periods established subsequent to July 6, 1974, and before July 3, 1977, an individual who has voluntarily left his employment without good cause in connection with the work or who was discharged from his employment for just cause shall be ineligible for waiting period or benefit rights for the week in which the disqualifying separation occurred and until he has subsequently earned remuneration in employment equal to or exceeding the weekly benefit amount of his claim in each of ten (10) weeks. The weeks of a disqualification period remaining at the expiration of an individual's benefit period will be carried forward to an extended benefit period or to the benefit period of a subsequent claim only if the first week of such extended benefit period or subsequent benefit period falls within ten (10) consecutive weeks from the beginning of the disqualification period imposed on the prior claim."
"The evidence reveals that approximate [sic] two to three weeks prior to claimant's date of leaving, the `Roll Foundry' was closed permanently and claimant was transferred to the terret [sic] line. [He], at this time, real [sic] realized that all of the other functions at The Blaw-Knox company were engaged in producing arms for the Armament Industry. Claimant's religious beliefs specifically exempts [sic] claimants from producing or aiding in the manufacture of items used in the advancement of war."
"The evidence of record indicates that claimant . . . left his employment voluntarily because his religious beliefs . . . would not allow him to continue to work producing arms . . . ."
In addition, the Court's opinion in Sherbert, 374 U. S., at 401, n. 4, seems to suggest by negative implication that where a State makes every "personal reason" for leaving a job a basis for disqualification from unemployment benefits, the State need not grant an exemption to persons such as Sherbert who do quit for "personal reasons." In this case, the Indiana Supreme Court has construed the State's unemployment statute to make every personal subjective reason for leaving a job a basis for disqualification. E. g., Geckler v. Review Bd. of the Indiana Employment Security Div., 244 Ind. 473, 193 N.E.2d 357 (1963). This case is thus distinguishable from Sherbert. Because Thomas left his job for a personal reason, the State of Indiana should not be prohibited from disqualifying him from receiving benefits.