- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Supreme Court sided with Muslim men who sued FBI agents for being placed on the No-Fly list in a ruling issued Thursday.

The men were put on the No-Fly list after refusing to spy on their religious communities for the federal government.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued the unanimous opinion for the court, holding that the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act permits money damages against agents in their personal capacities.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case. The court heard arguments in the legal battle on Oct. 6, more than two weeks before Justice Barrett was confirmed to the high court.

The dispute arose after Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Al-gibhah and Naveed Shinwri filed a federal lawsuit against more than a dozen FBI agents for violating the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act that prohibits the government from burdening the exercise of religion.

All of the men are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

The agents allegedly put them on the No-Fly List when they refused to be government informants and spy on their respective religious communities. According to court documents, the men were banned from flying for several years.

The lower court dismissed part of the lawsuit against the agents in their official capacity because the men were eventually removed from the flying ban. But the appellate court permitted the lawsuits against the individual agents to move forward, allowing the Muslim men to obtain monetary damages for the retaliation.

The federal agents appealed to the high court, arguing the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act allows suits against the government — but not civil lawsuits for monetary damages against individual federal employees for actions in the line of duty.

The high court disagreed, though, saying the federal law allows for a remedy for people whose free exercise of religion is substantially burdened by the government.

“In the context of suits against Government officials, damages have long been awarded as appropriate relief,” Justice Thomas wrote.

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