WASHINGTON, DC — Muslim Advocates, and its co-counsel Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, filed an amicus brief on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow American Muslims targeted and effectively extorted by the FBI to seek compensation for their mistreatment. Additionally, the case has the potential to affect the right of Americans to go to court to challenge religious discrimination.
The plaintiffs in the case—who are represented by CUNY’s CLEAR Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP—are Muslims who were placed on the No-Fly List and forbidden from boarding any planes as retaliation for refusing to spy on their own religious community for the FBI. When they sued, the lower court ruled that religious freedom laws didn’t apply—essentially giving the FBI and other law enforcement agencies a free pass to discriminate with impunity. On appeal, a different court ruled that the plaintiffs at least had the right to seek monetary damages. The government is currently appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that the religious freedom laws do not permit people to recover damages for past injustices. In its amicus brief, Muslim Advocates explains how Muslims are mistreated by current national security watchlists and how important it is that the plaintiffs be allowed to proceed with their case.
“Without the right to seek damages against those who violate their freedoms, Americans who suffer religious discrimination will be put at risk of having no recourse when mistreated by law enforcement,” said Matthew Callahan, a staff attorney with Muslim Advocates. “With so many American Muslims being unfairly targeted for their faith by law enforcement, it is more urgent than ever that we have strong laws to protect Americans from government overreach.”
“The government—whose FBI agents egregiously abused their power in a shakedown scheme to compel Americans to gather information on their religious communities—now wants to deny these U.S. citizens a remedy for the harm they suffered,” said Andrei Vrabie, an attorney with Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP. “That result would be inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to protecting Americans’ religious liberties.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.