This article explores how the Supreme Court of India, in applying the judicial doctrine of ‘essential practices’, has embarked on a dangerous exercise of determining whether a particular religious practice is significant enough to warrant constitutional protection under Article 25(1) or not. In tracing a string of judgments, it shows how courts have been guilty of making ill-founded observations about the validity of religious practices, thereby detrimentally affecting religious groups and minorities. Due to this constitutional transgression, the question of ‘what is essentially religious’ turned into the question of ‘what is essential in religion’. The court has neither the right nor the expertise to decide if the religious practice indeed is ‘essential’. State intervention is warranted only based on constitutionally stipulated restrictions of ‘public order’, ‘morality’ and ‘health’. The cardinal rule ought to be of limited state intervention but maximum protection.