3Muslims win case after being sanctioned for turning down FBI
WASHINGTON— The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that three Muslim men may seek monetary damages from the government agents they say placed them on a no-fly list because they refused to become FBI informants.
The men filed a lawsuit in 2013 under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides relief from government actions that substantially burden a person’s religious beliefs.
“The question here is whether ‘appropriate relief’ includes claims for money damages against government officials in their individual capacities. We hold that it does,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the 8-0 court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed after the case was argued in October, and did not take part in the decision.
Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah and Naveed Shinwari alleged that in separate incidents they were asked to spy on their friends and fellow congregants at mosques in the New York area.
They refused, and later discovered that they were placed on the no-fly list, a secretive government list containing thousands of names of those not allowed to board airplanes because of suspected terrorism ties.
Each of the plaintiffs in the case was uniquely vulnerable to the hindrances of the no-fly list; they all had wives or family abroad, giving them a powerful incentive to comply with the FBI’s demands.
Human rights attorneys and activists say they hope the case will improve awareness of rights in Muslim communities.
“Shining a light on these kinds of abuses, FBI practices, is in and of itself extremely important and kind of previously unthinkable,” said Diala Shamas, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.