The US Supreme Court on Friday granted the government’s petition to hear a dispute over whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows lawsuits for money damages against individual federal employees who placed individuals on the “no fly list.”
This case arose when several Muslin men—Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibah and Naveed Shinwari—alleged that in retaliation for their refusal to serve as informants, federal officers improperly placed or retained their names on the “no fly list,” in violation of their rights under the First Amendment and the RFRA.
The RFRA generally bars the government from placing a “substantial burden” on an individual’s exercise of his religion unless the government can show that the burden advances a compelling interest.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim, holding that a provision in RFRA that enables litigants to “obtain appropriate relief against a government” allows lawsuits for money damages against federal employees who are sued in their individual, rather than official, capacity.
The government appealed, alleging that the case “raises fundamental separation-of-powers concerns with a significant impact on Executive Branch operations nationwide.”