Thornton v. Caldor, Inc. 472 U.S. 703 (1985)

Author:Leonard W. Levy

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The Supreme Court held unconstitutional, on establishment clause grounds, a state act authorizing employees to designate a sabbath day and not work that day. Applying the three-part test of LEMON V. KURTZMAN (1971), Chief Justice WARREN E. BURGER found that by vesting in employees an "absolute and unqualified" right not to work on the sabbath of one's choice, and by forcing employers to adjust work schedules to the religious practices of employees, the act constituted a law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION. In purpose and effect it advanced religion, preferring those who believe in not working on the sabbath to those who hold no such belief. By implication, a statute giving employers some leeway would

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be constitutional. Only Justice WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST dissented, without opinion. No member of the Court defended the statute as a state effort to prevent discrimination against sabbath believers by preventing the imposition of employment penalties on those...

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