Smoking ordinance does not violate free exercise rights

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Porter v. Bates2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129394 (ND CA, Sept. 11, 2012), a California federal district judge dismissed claims that a Berkeley city ordinance banning smoking within 25 feet of any building open to the public (and 50 feet of health care facilities) violates plaintiff’s right to the free exercise of religion. Plaintiff alleged that  a citation issued to him for violating the ordinance “banned specific expressions of Indigenous Faith, Culture and Ancient Social Custom from designated Capitalist Preserves . . . .”  The court held that the ordinance is a neutral law of general applicability and, further, plaintiff failed to allege what is his “indigenous faith” and how smoking furthers that faith.