Thursday, May 17, 2018

Doctor Says His Free Exercise Rights Are Infringed By Blocking Him From Assisting Protester

An unusual religious free exercise lawsuit was filed in a Virginia federal district court yesterday by Greg Gelburd, a physician who says that he continually practices his religious belief of providing medical assistance to those in need.  The complaint (full text) in Gelburd v. Christiansen, (WD VA, filed 6/16/2018), contends that the U.S. Forest Service is preventing him from providing medical assistance to a "tree sitting" protester who is attempting to block a pipeline from being constructed in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.  The protester, a woman who has become known as "Nutty", has, for the past six weeks, been preventing pipeline construction by occupying a "monopad" atop a tall pole in the pipeline path. Forest Service employees are attempting to end Nutty's protest by denying her food, water, various services and the ability to communicate with others. Dr. Gelburd claims that his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment's religion and speech clauses are infringed by the government's actions.  The Rutherford Institute issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.