Sherbert Test Law and Legal Definition

Sherbert test is a type of test adopted by the courts when determining on granting or denying of unemployment compensation. Accordingly, the government needs to show a compelling government interest when unemployment compensation is denied to a person who was fired from a job as the job did not agree with the person’s religion. The test is substantially used to broaden the protection granted through the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The test was developed by the court through the decision of Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (U.S. 1963), and required the demonstration of such a compelling interest in Free Exercise cases.

The test consists of four criteria that are used to determine if an individual’s right to religious free exercise has been violated by the government. The test consists of two phases. According to the test, first the court has to determine:

1. whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and

2. whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief.

Secondly, the government must prove that:

1. it is acting in furtherance of a "compelling state interest"; and

2. it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.