Supreme Court Declines to Hear Hutterite Case

The Supreme Court today denied certiorari in Big Sky Colony, Inc. v. Montana Department of Labor and Industry–a case appealed from a decision of the Montana Supreme Court involving amendments to the Montana state workers’ compensation laws that brought the Hutterite Colonies (a religious group with roots in the 16th century Anabaptist movement) within the coverage of those laws when members performed agricultural, manufacturing, or construction services. The Hutterites brought constitutional claims arguing that they should be exempted from these laws (that is, they should not be designated as “employers”) because their members receive no wages. The Montana Supreme Court rejected those claims in a 4-3 decision.

I was pleased to sign on to an excellent amicus brief in the case spearheaded by Tom Berg arguing for what is, in my view, a correct interpretation of the “generally applicable” component of the Free Exercise Clause test after Employment Division v. Smith (an interpretation that I have also discussed in my book). I am sorry that the Court passed up the chance to clarify that portion of the test.

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