Conscience and the Courts
Selected Supreme Court and other cases which define conscientious objection to participation in war
by Marian Franz (2006)
“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... ”
Table of Contents
- United States v. Schwimmer:
- Should pacifist belief hinder an immigrant from U.S. citizenship?
- United States v. Macintosh:
- Should citizenship be allowed for a person who pledges only to fight wars the individual considers moral?
- Hamilton v. Regents of the University of California:
- May a state force its public college students to participate in Reserve Officers Training Corps program?
- Girouard v. United States:
- Should citizenship be denied to a person who cannot pledge to bear arms?
- A. J. Muste v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue:
- Is open failure to pay taxes fraudulent if the failure is based upon principle?
- Sherbert v. Verner:
- May a state deny unemployment benefits to a person who voluntarily quits her job for religious reasons, while granting those benefits generally to those who quit for “compelling reasons” ?
- United States v. Seeger:
- Does one have to claim belief in a Supreme Being to be classified under the Selective Service Act as a conscientious objector to participation in war?
- Welsh v. United States:
- Can qualifying conscientious objection be purely ethical and moral?
- Gillette v. United States:
- Can one selectively object to some wars and not others and still qualify for draft exemption or military discharge as a conscientious objector?
- Lemon et al. v. Kurtzman:
- Do certain state statutes which make state financial aid available to church-related educational institutions violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause?
- Wisconsin v. Yoder:
- Is a state's interest in compulsory education balanced by the right to free exercise of religion?
- United States v. American Friends Service Committee:
- Must a religious employer withhold taxes from employees who ask that they not be withheld for reasons of conscience against participation in war?
- Fifth Amendment Cases:
- Can the IRS compel defendants to produce records and answer questions in court regarding their financial records?
- Thomas v. Review of Indiana Employment Security Division:
- Can one be denied unemployment compensation for refusing to manufacture weapons?
- United States v. Lee:
- Must an Amish employer of Amish employees withhold social security taxes that violate Amish religious belief?
- Legislation -- TEFRA Act of 1982:
- Congress exacts additional penalty for “war tax deductions for taxes going to the Defense Department”
- Legislation -- TAMRA Act of 1988:
- Congress grants a provision which the Supreme Court had denied.
- Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith:
- Under the Free Exercise Clause, are employees fired for sacramental drug use entitled to unemployment benefits?
- United States v. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends:
- Must a religious corporation enforce levies against its employees who conscientiously object to paying war taxes?
- Legislation -- Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA):
- Congress restores the compelling government interest/ least restrictive means tests that the Supreme Court denied in Smith.
- Three cases appealed to Supreme Court based on RFRA:
- These cases, filed by Quaker conscientious objectors to military taxes, were appealed to the Supreme court under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993.
- City of Boerne v. Flores:
- The Court declares RFRA to be unconstitutional at state and local levels, but not at the federal level.
- Legislation -- Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act:
- Congress provides stronger protection for religious freedom in the land-use by religions and for institutionalized persons.
- Cutter v. Wilkinson:
- Does a federal law which prohibits government from burdening prisoners' religious exercise violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause?
- Postscript -- Prisoners of Conscience:
- Conscientious objectors receive prison sentences because they cannot violate their beliefs by paying for war.
- Concluding Remarks
- Appendix: Bill of Rights
- About the Author
Published in 2006 by the Peace Tax Foundation, Inc. 2121 Decatur Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
www.peacetaxfund.org 1-888-732-2382 used with permission