Friday, April 03, 2020

Interesting RFRA Case Involving Proof of Infant's Citizenship

Sabra v. Pompeo, (D DC, April 2, 2020), is an unusual RFRA case.  Mohammed Sabra and his wife Ponn Sabra are United States Citizens.  Here are Mrs. Sabra's claims, as recounted by the court:
In September 2018, Mrs. Sabra moved from the United States to Gaza with her three daughters because her two eldest daughters attend college there.... After arriving in Gaza, Mrs. Sabra discovered that she was pregnant with Baby M....  Mrs. Sabra decided to stay in Gaza to be close to Mr. Sabra’s family there....
In 2019, Baby M was born at home in Gaza just after intense bombing was going on in Gaza City.  In June 2019, Mrs Sabra contacted the U.S. embassy in Israel seeking an emergency appointment at the Erez Crossing to obtain a Counselor Report of Birth Abroad and a passport for Baby M.  The parents indicated that they needed to seek medical treatment for Baby M in the United States.  Because Mrs. Sabra was 46 years old, the consulate insisted on additional evidence establishing that she was in fact the baby's mother.  The embassy ultimately insisted on photos of Mrs. Sabra during her pregnancy and DNA testing of Baby M.  However the Sabra's, who are Muslim, objected:
... Mr. Sabra has a “strong religious hesitation” to DNA testing, whereas Mrs. Sabra has an “absolute religious objection” to the DNA testing of Baby M.... With respect to the photographs, Plaintiff’s counsel confirmed that there are two photographs of Mrs. Sabra during the pregnancy, but Mr. and Mrs. Sabra refuse to provide those photographs to the Embassy based on religious objections..... The basis ... is that the photographs are “very personal,” they were “taken in an intimate in-house setting with just the family,” and “for religious views, [they] should [not] be seen by anyone outside of the family ever.”
In an 87-page opinion that deals with a number of other issues as well, the court refused to dismiss plaintiffs' RFRA claims, saying in part:
There is a genuine dispute as to whether the Embassy’s request for the DNA testing and Mrs. Sabra’s pregnancy photographs served a compelling interest by the least restrictive means.