United States v. Ballard (1944)

The doctrine of “non-interference” was advanced in the Ballard case, where the Supreme Court held that the government could not prosecute members of an unorthodox religion upon claims that their doctrine was false and constituted fraud upon members who donated to and followed the religion.

The Court held that the “freedom of religious belief … embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths.” Further stating: “The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain.”

The Court went on to emphasize that the Free Exercise Clause encompassed not only the freedom to believe, but the freedom to act in furtherance of religious beliefs, i.e., the practice of religious commitment.

“The First Amendment has a dual aspect. It not only ‘forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship’ but also ‘safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion.’ … Men may believe what they cannot prove.… The First Amendment does not select any one group or any one type of religion for preferred treatment. It puts them all in that position.”