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Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (91-948), 508 U.S. 520 (1993).
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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


No. 91-948


CHURCH OF THE LUKUMI BABALU AYE, INC. and ERNESTO PICHARDO, PETITIONERS v.

CITY OF HIALEAH on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

[June 11, 1993]

Justice Scalia , with whom The Chief Justice joins, The terms "neutrality" and "general applicability" are not to be found within the First Amendment itself, of course, but are used in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), and earlier cases to describe those characteristics which cause a law that prohibits an activity a particular individual wishes to engage in for religious reasons nonetheless not to constitute a "law . . . prohibiting the free exercise" of religion within the meaning of the First Amendment. In my view, the defect of lack of neutrality applies primarily to those laws that by their terms impose disabilities on the basis of religion (e. g., a law excluding members of acertain sect from public benefits, cf. McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618 (1978)), see Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693, 703-704 (1986) (opinion of Burger, C. J.); whereas the defect of lack of general applicability applies primarily to those laws which, though neutral in their terms, through their design, construction, or enforcement target the practices of a particular religion for discriminatory treatment, see Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67 (1953). But certainly a law that is not of general applicability (in the sense I have described) can be considered "nonneutral"; and certainly no law that is nonneutral (in the relevant sense) can be thought to be of general applicability. Because I agree with most of the invalidating factors set forth in Part II of the Court's opinion, and because it seems to me a matter of no consequence under which rubric ("neutrality," Part II-A, or "general applicability," Part II-B) each invalidating factor is discussed, I join the judgment of the Court and all of its opinion except section 2 of Part II-A.

I do not join that section because it departs from the opinion's general focus on the object of the laws at issue to consider the subjective motivation of the lawmakers, i.e., whether the Hialeah City Council actually intended to disfavor the religion of Santeria. As I have noted elsewhere, it is virtually impossible to determine the singular "motive" of a collective legislative body, see, e. g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 636-639 (1987) (Scalia, J., dissenting), and this Court has a long tradition of refraining from such inquiries, see, e. g., Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 130-131 (1810) (Marshall, C. J.); United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 383-384 (1968).

Perhaps there are contexts in which determination of legislative motive must be undertaken. See, e. g., United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303 (1946). But I do not think that is true of analysis under the First Amendment (or the Fourteenth, to the extent it incorporates the First). See Edwards v. Aguillard, supra, at 639 (Scalia, J.,dissenting). The First Amendment does not refer to the purposes for which legislators enact laws, but to the effects of the laws enacted: "Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] . . . ." This does not put us in the business of invalidating laws by reason of the evil motives of their authors. Had the Hialeah City Council set out resolutely to suppress the practices of Santeria, but ineptly adopted ordinances that failed to do so, I do not see how those laws could be said to "prohibi[t] the free exercise" of religion. Nor, in my view, does it matter that a legislature consists entirely of the pure hearted, if the law it enacts in fact singles out a religious practice for special burdens. Had the ordinances here been passed with no motive on the part of any councilman except the ardent desire to prevent cruelty to animals (as might in fact have been the case), they would nonetheless be invalid.