'Stare Decisis and Free Exercise Doctrine', by Branton J. Nestor, at the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.
"'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exerciseThe Supreme Court held in Employment Division v. Smith that the Free Exercise Clause does not generally protect religiously motivated conduct from neutral laws of general applicability. That holding, although good law, remains controversial, with many scholars and judges now asking whether, if Smith was wrong, it should be overturned. Wading into this debate, this Article suggests that one common stare decisis consideration—a precedent’s consistency with related decisions—likely cuts against retaining Smith, at least to the extent that Smith’s holding and rationale are compared to the Supreme Court’s broader approach to the Religion Clauses. This Article first argues that Smith broke from prior Free Exercise Clause precedent and that, although Smith remains good law, it is in tension with many strains of Free Exercise Clause precedent today. This Article next argues that Smith is in tension with the ascendant focus on text, history, and tradition that has become increasingly central to contemporary Establishment Clause doctrine. While this Article does not fully resolve Smith’s stare decisis fate, it suggests one important weakness confronting any attempt to defend Smith on stare decisis grounds—with that weakness, and the doctrinal tensions it reveals, pointing the way toward how to reform contemporary Free Exercise Clause doctrine to better account for the text, history, and tradition of the Religion Clauses."
thereof ... .
—U.S. Const. amend. I'