WASHINGTON – A unanimous US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Muslim men who have been placed on the government’s no-fly list because they refused to serve as FBI informants may seek to hold federal agents financially responsible.
The judges continued a series of rulings favorable to religious interests by claiming that men could sue agents under the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act 1993 for what she calls “appropriate redress.”
“The question here is whether an ‘appropriate remedy’ includes claims for damages against individual government officials. We think so, ”Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the court.
The three foreign-born men claim in the lawsuit that their religious beliefs led them to reject officers who wanted them to report on people in their Muslim communities. “This is a clear ban in the Islamic faith,” Ramzi Kassem, the men’s lawyer, told judges during oral argument in October.
The men say officers then placed or kept them on the Prevented From Theft list because they are considered a threat. The men have since been removed from the no-fly list.
A first-instance court dismissed the complaint after their names were removed from the list, but they argued that the retaliation they claimed “cost them substantial sums: wasted plane tickets and income. jobs lost, ”Thomas writes. The New York Federal Court of Appeals agreed with the Muslim men, and the high court upheld that ruling.
There is no guarantee that the men will win their case or collect anything from the agents. Thomas noted that officers can argue that they should be protected from trial by the qualified immunity doctrine, which the Supreme Court said protects officials as long as their actions do not violate clearly established law or violate them. constitutional rights that they should have known. .
Lori Windham, senior lawyer at public interest law firm Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said governments too often change policies to avoid court judgments. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court unanimously noted that the government cannot expect to be released by simply changing its rhetoric at the last second. It’s a good move that makes it easier to hold the government accountable when it violates Americans’ religious freedoms, ”Windham said.
In recent years, the court has ruled in favor of individuals and businesses asserting their rights under the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, or the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.
The no-fly list decision was one of four rulings released Thursday in cases debated in October.
In the others, all decided unanimously, the court:
-Reep convictions for rape by a military officer and two enlisted men were renewed, overturning a military court decision which had ruled them out because too much time had elapsed between the assaults and the prosecution. These cases concern women who, for various reasons, initially decided not to file a complaint but then changed their mind. The crimes were all committed before 2006. The Uniform Code of Military Justice has been amended so that there is no statute of limitations for rape charges.
-Revised a provision in the Delaware Constitution, overturned by a lower court, that requires appointments to major Delaware courts to reflect a partisan balance. The judges did not rule on the substance of the requirement. Instead, they argued that attorney James R. Adams, a political freelance who challenged the provision, had no legal right to do so because he had failed to demonstrate that at the time he had sued he was “able and ready” to apply to be a judge.
-Reverse lower court rulings that prevented a 2015 Arkansas pharmacy law from coming into force. The law, Bill 900, was enacted to ensure that pharmacies are fully reimbursed for the cost drugs they dispense to clients.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett had not yet joined the court when the cases were debated and did not take part in the decisions.
Associated Press editor Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.