(FreedomJournal.org)- The Supreme Court made a surprise ruling on Thursday, siding with three Muslim men against FBI agents who put them on a no-fly list. The men were placed on the list after they refused to spy on other Muslims on behalf of the federal government, in an attempt to gain information on potential incidents of religious extremism.
In a unanimous court opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the men were entitled to money damages from agents in their personal capacities under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
Newly-confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn’t participate in the case, with arguments on the case being heard two weeks before she was confirmed on October 6.
Jaheel Al-gibhah, Naveed Shinwri, and Muhammad Tanvir filed a federal lawsuit against over a dozen FBI officials, arguing that they had violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The legislation, they argued, stopped the federal government from “burdening” the exercise of religion – something that agents of the federal government also cannot, by extension, do.
All three men, who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, were put on the no-fly list after they refused to assist the government in spying on members of their community. Documents presented in their case showed that they were affected by the flying ban for several years, but the lower courts dismissed part of their suit.
Because the men were removed from the flying ban, a lower court dismissed a part of the case filed against the FBI agents in their personal capacity. However, the Supreme Court decided that the suit against the officials on a personal basis was entirely appropriate.
Agents targeted by the suit argued to the high court that the legislation only allows suits against the government and does not permit suits seeking money damaged from individuals in their personal capacity, but the high court disagreed. The Supreme Court said that federal law allows for a financial remedy for those whose religious freedom was “burdened.”
Justice Thomas said that, in the context of suits against federal government officials, “damaged have long been awarded as appropriate relief.”