Supreme Court Opinion

On April 18, 1998, five members of the Court led by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Chief Justice Rehnquist plus Justices White, Stevens, and Scalia) reversed the lower courts and ruled in favor of Lyng and the Forest Service. Three justices dissented. Justice Brennan wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Marshall and Blackmun.

In the Court's Opinion O'Connor acknowledged that the G-O Road "could have devastating effects on traditional Indian religious practices," but she perceived the Road like the Social Security number in Roy. For the Court she wrote that "The building of a road or the harvesting of timber on publicly owned land cannot meaningfully be distinguished from the use of a Social Security number." Since she viewed the road as an "incidental" interference with religious freedom, not a deliberate government attack on one's faith, it was permissible.

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