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The indignity of being singled out by a government for special burdens on the basis of one's religious calling, is enough to get in the courthouse door. Unequal treatment is a type of personal injury that has long been recognized as judicially cognizable, and a discriminatory classification is itself a penalty, and thus qualifies as an actual injury for standing purposes, where a citizen's right to equal treatment is at stake. The injury in fact is the denial of equal treatment.
Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their civil-rights suit against the City of New York (the "City"). They claim to be targets of a wide-ranging surveillance program that the New York City Police Department (the "NYPD") began in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (the "Program"). Plaintiffs allege that the Program is based on the false and stigmatizing premise that Muslim religious identity "is a permissible proxy for criminality, and that Muslim individuals, businesses, and institutions can therefore be subject to pervasive surveillance not visited upon individuals, businesses, and institutions of any other religious faith or the public at large." They bring this lawsuit "to affirm the principle that individuals may not be singled out for intrusive investigation and pervasive surveillance that cause them continuing harm simply because they profess a certain faith."
Did Plaintiffs—themselves allegedly subject to a discriminatory surveillance program—have standing to sue in federal court to vindicate their religious-liberty and equal-protection rights?
The court held that Plaintiffs had standing to sue in federal court to vindicate their religious-liberty and equal-protection rights because a discriminatory classification constituted an injury in fact, the city was the cause of that injury, and it was likely that the injury would be redressed by a favorable decision. Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim would not be dismissed because plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the city engaged in intentional discrimination against a protected class with its Muslim surveillance program and that classification created a presumption of unconstitutionality that remained the city's obligation to rebut. Plaintiffs' claims under the Religious Clauses of the First Amendment would also not be dismissed.