Friday, March 16, 2018

No Bivens Claim For Interference With Religious Exercise In Puerto Rican Forest

In Twum-Baah v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, (D PR, March 12, 2018), a Puerto Rico federal district court dismissed Federal Tort Claims Act, free exercise and racial/ ethnic discrimination claims by a representative of the Waroyal Ministry who took his congregation to the El Yunque National Forest as part of their worship. He also started a tour company that offered tours in El Yunque. Federal officials assert that plaintiff needs a special use authorization for his activities. The court said in part:
A liberal reading of plaintiff’s amended complaint suggests Twum-Baah claims officers Verdejo, Ortiz, and Henderon violated his First Amendment rights to freely exercise his religion and to peaceably assemble with the Excursionist Association for El Yunque. ... Nonetheless, the Court’s understanding of Bivens and subsequent decisions by the Supreme Court compels it to find Bivens claims are not available for violations of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause.