JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act provides that "[a]n individual shall be ineligible for benefits if he has failed, without good cause, either to apply for available, suitable work when so directed . . . or to accept suitable work when offered him . . . ." Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 48, ¶ 433 (1986). In April 1984, William Frazee refused a temporary retail position offered him by Kelly Services because the job would have required him to work on Sunday. Frazee told Kelly that, as a Christian, he could not work on "the Lord's day." Frazee then applied to the Illinois Department of Employment Security for unemployment benefits claiming that there was good cause for his refusal to work on Sunday. His application was denied. Frazee appealed the denial of benefits to the Department of Employment Security's Board of Review, which also denied his claim. The Board of Review stated: "When a refusal of work is based on religious convictions, the refusal must be based upon some tenets or dogma accepted by the individual of some church, sect, or denomination, and such a refusal based solely on an individual's personal belief is personal and noncompelling and does not render the work unsuitable."
Frazee's free exercise claim was again rejected by the Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District. 159 Ill.App.3d 474, 512 N.E.2d 789 (1987). The court characterized Frazee's refusal to work as resting on his "personal professed religious belief," and made it clear that it did "not question the sincerity of the plaintiff," id., at 475, 477, 512 N. E. 2d, at 790, 791. It then engaged in a historical discussion of religious prohibitions against work on the Sabbath and, in particular, on Sunday. Nonetheless, the court distinguished Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963); Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707 (1981); and Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida, 480 U.S. 136 (1987), from the facts of Frazee's case. Unlike the claimants in Sherbert, Thomas, and Hobbie, Frazee was not a member of an established religious sect or church, nor did he claim that his refusal to work resulted from a "tenet, belief or teaching of an established religious body." 159 Ill. App. 3d, at 477, 512 N. E. 2d, at 791. To the Illinois court, Frazee's position that he was "a Christian" and as such felt it wrong to work on Sunday was not enough. For a Free Exercise Clause claim to succeed, said the Illinois Appellate Court, "the injunction against Sunday labor must be found in a tenet or dogma of an established religious sect. [Frazee] does not profess to be a member of any such sect." Id., at 478-479, 512 N. E. 2d, at 792. The Illinois Supreme Court denied Frazee leave to appeal.
The mandatory appellate jurisdiction of this Court was invoked under 28 U. S. C. § 1257(2), since the state court
We have had more than one occasion before today to consider denials of unemployment compensation benefits to those who have refused work on the basis of their religious beliefs. In Sherbert v. Verner, supra, at 410, the Court held that a State could not "constitutionally apply the eligibility provisions [of its unemployment-compensation program] so as to constrain a worker to abandon his religious convictions respecting the day of rest." Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., supra, also held that the State's refusal to award unemployment compensation benefits to one who terminated his job because his religious beliefs forbade participation in the production of armaments violated the First Amendment right to free exercise. Just two years ago, in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida, supra, Florida's denial of unemployment compensation benefits to an employee discharged for her refusal to work on her Sabbath because of religious convictions adopted subsequent to employment was also declared to be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause. In each of these cases, the appellant was "forced to choose between fidelity to religious belief and . . . employment," id., at 144, and we found "the forfeiture of unemployment benefits for choosing the former over the latter brings unlawful coercion to bear on the employee's choice," ibid. In each of these cases, we concluded that the denial of unemployment compensation benefits violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is true, as the Illinois court noted, that each of the claimants in those cases was a member of a particular religious sect, but none of those decisions turned on that consideration or on any tenet of the sect involved that forbade the work the
There is no doubt that "[o]nly beliefs rooted in religion are protected by the Free Exercise Clause," Thomas, supra, at 713. Purely secular views do not suffice. United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215-216 (1972). Nor do we underestimate the difficulty of distinguishing between religious and secular convictions and in determining whether a professed belief is sincerely held. States are clearly entitled to assure themselves that there is an ample predicate for invoking the Free Exercise Clause. We do not face problems about sincerity or about the religious nature of Frazee's convictions, however. The courts below did not question his sincerity, and the State concedes it. Tr. of Oral Arg. 35. Furthermore, the Board of Review characterized Frazee's views as "religious convictions," App. 18, and the Illinois Appellate Court referred to his refusal to work on Sunday as based on a "personal professed religious belief," 159 Ill. App. 3d, at 475, 512 N. E. 2d, at 790.
The State does not appear to defend this aspect of the decision below. In its brief and at oral argument, the State conceded that the Free Exercise Clause does not demand adherence to a tenet or dogma of an established religious sect. Instead, the State proposes its own test for identifying a "religious" belief, asserts that Frazee has not met such a test, and asks that we affirm on this basis. We decline to address this submission; for as the case comes to us, Frazee's conviction was recognized as religious but found to be inadequate
The State offers no justification for the burden that the denial of benefits places on Frazee's right to exercise his religion. The Illinois Appellate Court ascribed great significance to America's weekend way of life. The Illinois court asked: "What would Sunday be today if professional football, baseball, basketball, and tennis were barred. Today Sunday is not only a day for religion, but for recreation and labor. Today the supermarkets are open, service stations dispense fuel, utilities continue to serve the people and factories continue to belch smoke and tangible products," concluding that "[i]f all Americans were to abstain from working on Sunday, chaos would result." 159 Ill. App. 3d, at 478, 512 N. E. 2d, at 792. We are unpersuaded, however, that there will be a mass movement away from Sunday employ if William Frazee succeeds in his claim.
As was the case in Thomas where there was "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," 450 U. S., at 719, there is nothing before us in this case to suggest that Sunday shopping, or Sunday sporting, for that matter, will grind to a halt as a result of our decision today. And, as we have said in the past, there may exist state interests sufficiently compelling to override a legitimate claim to the free exercise of religion. No such interest has been presented here.
The judgment of the Appellate Court of Illinois for the Third District is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.