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Guidelines for the Free Exercise Clause

J. Morris Clark
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 83, No. 2 (Dec., 1969), pp. 327-365
DOI: 10.2307/1339673
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1339673
Page Count: 39
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Guidelines for the Free Exercise Clause
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Abstract

Since Sherbert v. Verner, which held the free exercise clause to protect religious practice as well as religious belief, no clear legal principles have evolved to define when practice is protected and when it can be regulated by the state. The author describes the disadvantages of the ad hoc balancing of interests made necessary by the absence of standards. He proposes that when a conscientious refusal to perform a positive duty is at issue, a strong presumption be applied that the state can satisfy its interest by some less burdensome means than criminal prohibition: either by imposing an alternative burden on the objector or by performing the act for him, or both. Positive acts should also be specially privileged, the author says, when they are believed by the actor to be inexcusable moral duties and when they do not interfere with nonparticipants.

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