In fact, a century of American jurisprudence – including Antonin Scalia himself – prove that you can, and should [obey the law]. Scalia, himself a devout and very conservative Catholic, wrote in the majority decision:
“We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.”
Scalia traces Supreme Court rulings on the issue back to an 1879 decision that upheld federal laws against polygamy. A member of the Mormon Church had argued that because his faith required men to marry multiple wives, polygamy was protected under the First Amendment and that Mormons could claim a religious exemption from such a law.
“One thing I think is crystal clearÂ — there is no First Amendment violation by this law,” Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, told TPM. “The Supreme Court was very clear in a case calledÂ Employment Division v. Smith, written by none other than Antonin Scalia, that religious believers and institutions are not entitled to an exemption from generally applicable laws.”
The Reagan-appointed conservative justice authored the majority opinion in the 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith, a critical precedent to the birth control case, decreeing that religious liberty is insufficient grounds for being exempt from laws. The Supreme Court saidÂ Oregon may deny unemployment benefits to people who were fired for consuming peyote as part of a religious tradition, seeing as the drug was illegal in the state.
“To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself,” wrote Scalia, an avowed Catholic and social conservative, quoting from a century-old Supreme Court decision and giving it new life. His opinion was cosigned by four other justices.