Precedents Favoring Lyng

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).
Chief Justice Waite, delivering the opinion of the Court upholding punishment for Mormons convicted of polygamy in the Idaho Territory, wrote "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice?"

Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944)
The Court upheld a Massachusetts law regulating child labor even where a girl, Betty Simmons, the ward of Sarah Prince, was engaged in religious proselytizing.

Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693 (1986)
In 1986 the Court ruled that a child must have a Social Security number in order for her family to receive governmental assistance, such as AFDC and Food Stamps, even though the parents object on religious grounds. The native Abenaki parents of Little Bird of the Snow believed that a Social Security number would take away the purity of their daughter's spirit and refused to obtain a number on grounds that it would violate her Native American religious beliefs.

Chief Justice Burger, writing for the Court, claimed that the requirement to have a Social Security number "is facially neutral in religious terms, applies to all applicants for the benefits involved, and clearly promotes a legitimate and important public interest" to prevent fraud. He concluded that "The Free Exercise Clause simply cannot be understood to require the Government to conduct its own internal affairs in ways that comport with the religious beliefs of particular citizens."

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