A State Unconstitutionally Burdens the Free Exercise of Religion Whenever it “Forces a Worker to Choose Between Fidelity to Religious Belief or Cessation of Work”

A federal district court ruled that the denial of unemployment benefits by the state of

A federal district court ruled that the denial of unemployment benefits by the state of Virginia to a woman who quit her job to accompany her husband to another community in order to care for his aging mother violated her constitutional right to freely exercise her religion.

Specifically, the woman argued that the tenets of the Holiness religion required her to respect her husband's decision to move, to live with her husband, to care for her mother-in-law, and to raise her children in conjunction with her husband.

The state denied unemployment benefits on the basis of a law denying benefits to anyone who voluntarily quits work "to accompany or join his or her spouse in a new locality." The court concluded that a state unconstitutionally burdens the free exercise of religion whenever it "forces a worker to choose between fidelity to religious belief or cessation of work." Austin v. Berryman, 670 F. Supp. 672 (W.D. Va. 1987)

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