Thursday, January 30, 2020

Court Denies Preliminary Injunction To Pastor Targeted For Ministering To Migrants

In Dousa v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (SD CA, Jan. 28, 2020), a California federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to a Christian pastor who claimed that her right to freely exercise her religion was substantially burdened by federal government's surveillance, brief detention and harassment of her. She contended that the government's actions amounted to retaliation for her activities ministering to asylum seekers and migrant on the Mexican side of the U.S. southern border. Denying a preliminary injunction, the court said in part:
Dousa has not shown at this stage that the Government has substantially burdened her Free Exercise rights. The harms she alleges—a “canceled trip to Mexico, refrain[ing] from blessing migrant marriages, hav[ing] her pastoral counseling chilled,” ... are subjective, and the Ninth Circuit is clear that “a subjective chilling effect on free exercise rights is not sufficient to constitute a substantial burden.”
However the court refused to completely dismiss her allegations of 1st Amendment and RFRA violations, saying in part:
It bears repeating that a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.” ... The conclusion here that Dousa is not entitled to an injunction is simply a finding that she has not made that “clear showing” at this stage; it is not a finding that she cannot make that showing down the line, perhaps with the advantage of additional discovery.
Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.