Davis v. Beason

PETITIONER: Samuel D. Davis

DOCKET NO.: 1261
DECIDED BY: Fuller Court (1890)

ARGUED: Dec 09, 1889 / Dec 10, 1889
DECIDED: Feb 03, 1890

Facts of the case

An Idaho Territory statute required voters swear an oath stating that they were neither a polygamist nor were they a member of any organization that promoted polygamy. In April 1889, Samuel D. Davis, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whose members often practiced and advocated polygamy, was indicted for falsely swearing the oath prior to the 1888 election. Davis was convicted and sentenced to pay of fine of $500 and serve 250 days in county jail. On the same day as his conviction, Davis obtained a writ of habeas corpus, accusing the county sheriff of imprisoning him illegally. Davis claimed that requiring the oath violated his right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The federal territorial court denied Davis' claim.


Did requiring Davis swear an oath that he was not a member of an organization that promoted polygamy violate Davis' rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment?