Smith v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission

A landlord claimed that a California regulation prohibiting her from discriminating on religious grounds against unmarried prospective tenants violated the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In December 1994, AU submitted an amicus brief to the California Supreme Court arguing that an activity that is secular in character and is entered into for secular purposes does not constitute the exercise of religion, and that even if it did, the regulation does not substantially burden that exercise and is justified by the compelling interest of preventing discrimination. The California Supreme Court held, in April 1996, that the federal Free Exercise Clause was not violated because the regulation is neutral and generally applicable, and that RFRA was not violated because the prohibition does not substantially burden the landlord’s religious exercise because she is free to redeploy her capital in other investments and because granting her an exemption would detrimentally affect the rights of third parties.

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