BYU Law Review


Mark Satta


In order for a religious conviction to receive protection under the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), it must be a sincere religious conviction. Some critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby have suggested that the plaintiffs in that case and in related cases were motivated more by political ideology than by sincere religious conviction. The remedy, they argue, is for courts to be quicker to scrutinize claims of religious sincerity. In this Article, I consider another possibility—namely, that current sociopolitical partisanship in the United States has eroded a clear distinction between political ideology and religious conviction for plaintiffs in cases like Hobby Lobby. If this theory is correct, it is far less obvious what the proper remedy is. I consider and reject the view that newly formed religious convictions with political origins should be treated as less than sincere on those grounds. However, I do argue that whether a religious conviction seems to have been newly generated by political circumstances should be taken into account when deciding religious free exercise cases. I suggest that this could best be accounted for if the courts adopted a balanced interests approach instead of the winner-takes-all “checklist” approaches that have developed under Employment Division v. Smith and RFRA.


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