489 U.S. 829 (1989), 87-1945, Frazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security

Docket NºNo. 87-1945
Citation489 U.S. 829, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 103 L.Ed.2d 914, 57 U.S.L.W. 4397
Party NameFrazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security
Case DateMarch 29, 1989
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 829

489 U.S. 829 (1989)

109 S.Ct. 1514, 103 L.Ed.2d 914, 57 U.S.L.W. 4397

Frazee

v.

Illinois Department of Employment Security

No. 87-1945

United States Supreme Court

March 29, 1989

Argued March 1, 1989

APPEAL FROM THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS,

THIRD DISTRICT

Syllabus

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. 832-835.

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

Page 830

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

WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act provides that

An individual shall be ineligible for benefits if he has failed, without good cause, either to apply for available, [109 S.Ct. 1516] 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

Page 831

App. 18-19. The Board of Review concluded that Frazee had refused an offer of suitable work without good cause. The Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit of Illinois, Peoria County, affirmed, finding that the agency's decision was "not contrary to law nor against the manifest weight of the evidence," thereby rejecting Frazee's claim based on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Id. at 23.

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

Page 832

rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Illinois' statutory "good cause" requirement as applied in this case. We noted probable jurisdiction, 488 U.S. 814 (1988), and now reverse.

We have had more than one occasion before today to consider denials of...

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200 practice notes
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • October 26, 2017
    ...a particular religious organization or shared among adherents of a particular religious tradition. Frazee v. Illinois Dept. of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 833-34 (1989). As the Supreme Court has repeatedly counseled, ``religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehe......
  • 467 B.R. 451 (Bkrtcy.E.D.Wis. 2012), 11-24099, In re Meyer
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Seventh Circuit
    • March 22, 2012
    ...in parochial schools. While the Free Exercise Clause does not protect personal preferences, Frazee v. Illinois Dep't of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 833, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 103 L.Ed.2d 914 (1989), for purposes of deciding this issue, the Court will presume that the debtors' religious beliefs rega......
  • Inmates' religious rights: deference to religious leaders and accommodation of individualized religious beliefs.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 64 Nbr. 2, December 2000
    • December 22, 2000
    ...of a particular organized religious denomination to show sincerity of belief.") (citing Frazee v. Ill. Dep't of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989)). (63) See infra notes 64-81 and accompanying text (discussing the Supreme Court's development and interpretation of the sincerity s......
  • RLUIPA at four: evaluating the success and constitutionality of RLUIPA'S prisoner provisions.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 28 Nbr. 2, March 2005
    • March 22, 2005
    ...the plaintiff, finding that the military had interests justifying the imposition of the burden on religious exercise. Id. at 509-10. (94.) 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989). Seealso Levitan v. Ashcroft, 281 F.3d 1313, 1319 (D.C. Cir. 2002) ("A requirement that religious practice be mandatory to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
155 cases
  • 467 B.R. 451 (Bkrtcy.E.D.Wis. 2012), 11-24099, In re Meyer
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Seventh Circuit
    • March 22, 2012
    ...in parochial schools. While the Free Exercise Clause does not protect personal preferences, Frazee v. Illinois Dep't of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 833, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 103 L.Ed.2d 914 (1989), for purposes of deciding this issue, the Court will presume that the debtors' religious beliefs rega......
  • 287 B.R. 839 (Bkrtcy.N.D.Ga. 2001), 99-6566, In re Belcher
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Eleventh Circuit
    • January 23, 2001
    ...Amendment where claimant was discharged because she refused to work on her Sabbath); Frazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security, 489 U.S. 829, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 103 L.Ed.2d 914 (1989)(state's denial of unemployment benefits to worker who refused position because job required him to ......
  • C. F. v. New York City Department of Health, 122320 NYAPP2, 2019-04455
    • United States
    • December 23, 2020
    ...must be responding to the commands of a particular religious organization" (Frazee v Illinois Dept. of Employment Security, 489 U.S. 829, 834). "[T]he Free Exercise Clause does not demand adherence to a tenet or dogma of an established religious sect" (id.......
  • C.F. v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 122320 NYAPP2, 2020-07867
    • United States
    • December 23, 2020
    ...must be responding to the commands of a particular religious organization" (Frazee v Illinois Dept. of Employment Security, 489 U.S. 829, 834). "[T]he Free Exercise Clause does not demand adherence to a tenet or dogma of an established religious sect" (id.......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Accommodating Religion: Ignorance Is Not Bliss
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • August 18, 2015
    ...Only “sincerely held” religious beliefs and practices need be accommodated. Frazee v. Illinois Dept. of Employment Security (1989) 489 U.S. 829, 834. That includes “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious vie......
40 books & journal articles
  • Inmates' religious rights: deference to religious leaders and accommodation of individualized religious beliefs.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 64 Nbr. 2, December 2000
    • December 22, 2000
    ...of a particular organized religious denomination to show sincerity of belief.") (citing Frazee v. Ill. Dep't of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989)). (63) See infra notes 64-81 and accompanying text (discussing the Supreme Court's development and interpretation of the sincerity s......
  • RLUIPA at four: evaluating the success and constitutionality of RLUIPA'S prisoner provisions.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 28 Nbr. 2, March 2005
    • March 22, 2005
    ...the plaintiff, finding that the military had interests justifying the imposition of the burden on religious exercise. Id. at 509-10. (94.) 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989). Seealso Levitan v. Ashcroft, 281 F.3d 1313, 1319 (D.C. Cir. 2002) ("A requirement that religious practice be mandatory to......
  • On the legal standard for evaluating free exercise claims in the context of sex offender civil commitment.
    • United States
    • Ave Maria Law Review Vol. 11 Nbr. 2, March 2013
    • March 22, 2013
    ...is also consistent with Supreme Court precedent regarding free exercise under the First Amendment. See Frazee v. Ill. Dep't of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989) ("[W]e reject the notion that to claim the protection of the Free Exercise Clause, one must be responding to the commands ......
  • The free exercise of religion after the fall: the case for intermediate scrutiny.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 39 Nbr. 3, February 1998
    • February 1, 1998
    ...profession of beliefs, political or religious. (11.) 374 U.S. 398 (1963). (12.) See Frazee v. Illinois Dep't of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 834-35 (1989); Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n, 480 U.S. 136, 140 (1987); Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 718 (1981). (13.) See Sherbert, ......
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3 provisions
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • October 26, 2017
    ...a particular religious organization or shared among adherents of a particular religious tradition. Frazee v. Illinois Dept. of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 833-34 (1989). As the Supreme Court has repeatedly counseled, ``religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehe......
  • Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause's Religious Exemption
    • United States
    • Federal Contract Compliance Programs Office
    • Invalid date
    ...or beliefs.''). To merit protection, religious beliefs must simply be ``sincerely held.'' E.g., Frazee v. Ill. Dept. of Emp't Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 834 (1989); United States v. [[Page 41685]] Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 185 (1965). Courts have appropriately relied on the ``sincerely held'' standard......
  • Headstone and Marker Application Process
    • United States
    • Federal Register June 01, 2009
    • July 1, 2009
    ...Clause one must be responding to the commands of a particular religious organization.'' See Frazee v. Illinois Dep't of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 833 (1989) (appellant asserted he was a Christian but did not claim to be a member of a particular Christian sect). Further, we have determi......