Sunday, July 10, 2022

Damage Claim For Denying Lincoln Memorial Religious Demonstration Permit Dismissed

In Ferguson v. Owen, (D DC, July 8, 2022), a D.C. federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, a suit for damages against the head of the National Park Service Division of Permits Management for refusing plaintiff a permit for a 4-month long demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial.  He was offered a permit to demonstrate at the Korean War Veterans Memorial site. Plaintiff, a street musician, wanted to convey a religious/ political message.  The court rejected plaintiff's RFRA claim, finding that the denial had not imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise, saying in part:

Must an individual have a central religious belief that requires demonstrating at the Lincoln Memorial in order for the denial of permit applications to demonstrate at the Lincoln Memorial—accompanied by the approval of permit applications to demonstrate at nearby locations—to constitute a substantial burden under RFRA? The answer to this question is yes.

The court also rejected plaintiff's 1st Amendment claim, refusing to extend implied Bivens causes of action to this type of claim.