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Guantanamo Bay prisoners sue for right to pray, cite 'Hobby Lobby'

"If Hobby Lobby is a 'person' with a right to religious freedom, surely Gitmo detainees are people too," argue lawyers.
By Matt Bradwell   |   July 8, 2014 at 2:09 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- Lawyers representing two Guantanamo Bay detainees have filed motions requesting the United States stop authorities from barring inmates from prayer, citing the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision.

The motions were filed in Washington D.C. district court on behalf of Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani, both prisoners in Guantanamo Bay since former President George W. Bush's first term in office. According to their attorneys, Guantanamo Bay guards have been preventing them from praying communally during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons -- human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien -- enjoy the special religious free exercise protections," lawyers for Hassan and Rabbani wrote.

"Why are the authorities at Guantánamo Bay seeking to punish detainees for hunger striking by curtailing their right to pray? If, under our law, Hobby Lobby is a 'person' with a right to religious freedom, surely Gitmo detainees are people too."

The same legal team represents a group of Guantanamo inmates, including Hassan and Rabbani, who sued the government in attempt to stop force feeding. That suit also sought to end bans on communal prayer, but circuit courts ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees are not "persons" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"When we filed earlier this year asking the government to stop force-feeding Rabbani and Hassan, we did include right to pray communally but the government filed their response to that under seal, so I'm afraid what was in it can't be shared beyond the detainee's counsel," A spokesperson for Rabbani and Hassan explained to MSNBC.

"But we are asking them again and following on from Hobby Lobby, the government will have to argue that corporations are 'people' with religious beliefs, while detainees in Guantanamo are not!"

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