Supreme Court - 1 new grant (11/22/19) - RFRA as basis for monetary damages against federal employees

Supreme Court order list for 11/22/19.

(**Note:**FNU stands for First Name Unknown)

Issue : Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, permits suits seeking money damages against individual federal employees.

The Petitioners in this case are numerous F.B.I. agents. The case is being filed on their behalf by the United States Solicitor General. The Respondents in this case are a group of Muslim men.

The quoted material from the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari gives the relevant factual background of the case.

  1. Respondents are Muslim men who lawfully immigrated to the United States and are now either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. App., infra, 3a. They allege that several agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked them to serve as informants for the government in terrorism related investigations, but they refused, at least in part based on their religious beliefs. Respondents assert that petitioners then retaliated against them by improperly using the No Fly List—a government-maintained list of persons known or suspected of posing a risk of terrorism and therefore not permitted to board commercial aircraft in the United States. Id. at 3a-4a. In particular, respondents allege that the agents placed (or, if a respondent was already on the No Fly List, retained) them on the No Fly List due to their decision not to assist the FBI. Ibid. Thus, according to respondents, the agents forced them “into an impermissible choice between, on the one hand, obeying their sincerely held religious beliefs and being subjected to * * * placement or retention on the No Fly List, or, on the other hand, violating their sincerely held religious beliefs in order to avoid [placement or retention] on the No Fly List,” and in that way substantially burdened their exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs.

While I believe the Respondents do have a legitimate grievance against the government, they are not entitled to the particular remedy they seek, direct monetary damages from the government employees involved.

I believe the Supreme Court will rule for Petitioners.