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The book under analysis is Religious freedom and Indian Rights: the case of Oregon v. Smith by Carolyn Long. The book was written in 2000 depicting the events that took place in the state of Oregon in 1983-1984. The book presents an analysis of law cases and manifestations of justice. Though the author does not hide her personal attitude to the cases under the description, the clear and unprejudiced point of view of both sides is the leading point of this book. The author gives a full image of the case development with the help of the interviews of people who were the leading personalities. The case touches upon such important questions as religious concerns and the problems occurring with its manifestation. At the same time, this book demonstrates a sharp conflict between the religious concerns and other spheres of human life like work subordination and state laws. The action takes place in the state of Oregon and touches upon the lives of Klamath Indians who were convicted in usage of the prohibited drug – peyote and were fired from Douglas County Council on Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Treatment.

This decision was controversial for two reasons. First is that both of the Indians Alfred Smith and Galen Black were using the drug during the religious ceremony as an essential part of it and were not using it directly as a drug for its main purpose. Second is that they both were counselors of the drug rehabilitation and treatment organization that was helping people to recover after alcohol and drug addictions. The situation takes place during 1983 – 1984 and describes the court decisions that took place later in 1990. Moreover, the book shows the process of development of this case and its resonance that leads it to the United States Supreme Court and then back to the level of state decisions.

It is necessary to mention the fact that the author gives a full image of the legislation process and the development of all actions. She gives an understandable and objective look upon such important things as the variety of laws’ interpretation ways. The whole situation arises around the small conflict of the working discipline and religious rituals. The problem is intensified by the fact of firing of the workers and refusal to compensate their unemployment applies. The crucial point is the fact that Alfred Smith and Galen Black worked for the organization which first requirement of the working discipline was not using any kind of drugs.

One of the leading ideas that rules in the United States is the freedom of religious rights of people including all the possible religious minorities. At the same time, the question of drug usage is also a problem in the US. Carolyn Long managed to show the global resonance of the problem of religious freedom and rights in this book. The crucial moment in the whole situation is the legislative conflict between the state Court and Congress that fought for the correct interpretation and application of the amendments to the American Indian Religious freedom Act. The conflict resulted in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was adopted in 1993 and was meant to protect the religious rights of all Americans. The theme of freedom and law is the leading point in this book.

Social thoughts and ideas considering this problem vary and offer a wide range of possible ways out of the situation. The main problem under the conflict is the place of peyote in society. It serves as a substance that helps Indians who follow the Native American Church to become closer to their Great Spirits. Furthermore, this drug is prohibited by the state law as one of the most dangerous drugs that equal cocaine and heroin by its harmfulness. However, the point is discussable over the amount of drug being used and the main aim of taking it. People who are the followers of the Native American Church take in only small amounts of peyote and during their religious ceremonies only.

One of the main figures of the book Justice Blackmun mentions that the court’s decision is absurd for prohibiting people to practice their religion. He also added that if the state of Oregon requires its citizens to follow the national American rule of free practicing of religion the Native Americans would be forced to leave the state in search of more tolerant attitude to their religion. Thus, every person has right to fulfill the rituals of religion even if it involves the drug use. However, this rule can be interpreted by the drug users every time when they are caught by the police by claiming that it was for a religious use.

Finally, the First Amendment protection of freedom for religious worshiping was stated by the Supreme Court to apply to the laws that aim specifically religious behavior and concerns. An individual’s religious concerns do not give a right to fail to comply with the statutes that violate their religious rights even indirectly. Current Oregon law has a following set of statutes that refer to the peyote usage in this state. This drug can be used for the fulfillment of the religious belief practice: its usage should be neither harmful to the person who takes it nor to the people surrounding that person. The excuse for using the drug does not apply in cases of passing the drug to those people who are incarcerated and correctional facility members.

The book under analysis gives a perfect opportunity to follow the development of one of the most interesting and controversial cases Oregon v. Smith in the history of law cases. Such bright development of the action makes it a landmark in the US court history. The special characteristics of the book under analysis is that it is filled with facts and interviews interlaced with the human attitude and sympathy to people’s rights. The story itself impresses by the tragedy of life of those people who want to practice their religion free and not to be afraid of judicial proceedings, as a result.

Code: Sample20

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