Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it will hear the appeal of the White House in a case involving three men who said they were placed on a national no-fly list by the FBI after refusing to spy on fellow Muslims.
The three men, each a naturalized U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, sued the FBI over what they said was unlawful abuse of a federal watch list prohibiting suspected terrorists from U.S. air travel. Their refusal to cooperate with the FBI to become government informants in investigations of terrorism-related activities was in part motivated by their religious beliefs. A New York federal district appeals court ruled in 2018 they could sue under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"They brought this suit against a number of federal officers in their individual capacities, alleging that that they were placed and maintained on the national "No Fly List" in retaliation for their refusal to serve as informants for the FBI," an application for a time extension, submitted to the Supreme Court in June, said in part. "Respondents contended, among other things, that this violated their rights under RFRA and that they were entitled to money damages against the individual federal officers personally."
The district court dismissed the claim, saying that RFRA does not permit the recovery of money damages against federal officers sued in their individual capacities. A court of appeals reversed that ruling.
The Supreme Court case is named FNU Tanzin, Special Agent, FBI et al., v. Muhammed Tanvir et al. Tanzin, "First Name Unkown," is a government employee. Tanzin is one of the three plaintiffs.
The administration of President Donald Trump, through the Justice Department, asked the Supreme Court to find that federal law denies lawsuits seeking monetary damages against individual federal government employees.