“An individual whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened by a federal official,” lawyer Ramzi Kassem of the City University of New York School of Law argued, “may sue that person in their individual capacity for damages.”
A lower court ruled in their favor allowing the law suit to move forward. The Justice Department appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department told the justices that a decision allowing damage awards against the federal employees could chill their ability to do their job and “raise sensitive separation of powers concerns” potentially preventing government officials from “devoting the time and effort required for the proper discharge of duties.”
“Even well-intentioned federal employees would thus be forced to navigate a minefield of liability that would be difficult to predict or avoid,” Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler, said in court papers.
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their agreement that our clients can seek repair for the harms that they experienced at the hands of these agents for refusing to spy on their Muslim communities,” said Diala Shamas, an attorney for the three men. “I hope that this serves as a reminder that religious protections apply equally to Muslim communities, who are all too often targeted by law enforcement for surveillance and harassment.”