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Supreme Court of the United States
October 6, 2020, Argued; December 10, 2020, Decided
[**295] [*489] Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the Federal Government from imposing substantial burdens on religious exercise, absent a compelling interest pursued through the least restrictive means. 107 Stat. 1488, 42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq. It also gives a person whose religious exercise has been unlawfully burdened the right to seek “appropriate relief.” The question here is whether “appropriate relief ” includes claims for money damages against Government officials in their individual capacities. We hold that it does.
RFRA [***4] secures Congress’ view of the right to free exercise under the First Amendment, and it provides a remedy to redress violations of that right. Congress passed the Act in the wake of this Court’s decision in Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872, 885-890, 110 S. Ct. 1595, 108 L. Ed. 2d 876 (1990), which held that the First Amendment tolerates neutral, generally applicable laws that burden or prohibit religious acts even when the laws are unsupported by a narrowly tailored, compelling governmental interest. See §2000bb(a). RFRA sought to counter the effect of that holding and restore the pre-Smith “compelling interest test” by “provid[ing] a claim . . . to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.” §§2000bb(b)(1)-(2). That right of action [**300] enables a person to “obtain appropriate relief against a government.” §2000bb-1(c). A “‘government’” is defined to include “a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under color of law) of the United States.” §2000bb-2(1).
Respondents Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, and Naveed Shinwari are practicing Muslims who claim that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents placed them on the No Fly List in retaliation for their refusal to act as informants against their religious communities. Respondents sued various agents in their official capacities, seeking [***5] removal from the No Fly List. They also sued the agents in their individual capacities for money damages. According to respondents, the retaliation cost them substantial sums of money: airline tickets wasted and income from job opportunities lost.
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141 S. Ct. 486 *; 208 L. Ed. 2d 295 **; 2020 U.S. LEXIS 5987 ***; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 611; 2020 WL 7250100
FNU TANZIN, et al., Petitioners v. MUHAMMAD TANVIR, et al.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
Tanvir v. Tanzin, 894 F.3d 449, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 17152 (2d Cir. N.Y., May 2, 2018)
Disposition: 894 F. 3d 449, affirmed.
damages, appropriate relief, color of law, religious, suits, individual capacity, violations, government official, federal official, employees
Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Legislation, Interpretation, State & Territorial Governments, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Freedom of Speech