Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Guantanamo Bay Detainees Argue Hobby Lobby Decision Makes RFRA Applicable To Them

AlJazeera reports on emergency motions filed last week in D.C.'s federal district court on behalf of two Guantanamo Bay detainees for temporary restraining orders to prohibit the government from denying the detainees the right to participate in communal prayer during Ramadan. The motions in Hasan v. Obama (full text) and Rabbani v. Obama (full text), both filed July 3 by the British advocacy organization Reprieve, argue that the previous D.C. Circuit decision in Rasul v. Myers holding that Guantanamo Bay detainees are not persons protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has effectively been overruled by the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision. As the argument is framed in the Rabbani motion:
The holding and express reasoning in Hobby Lobby makes Rasul a dead letter. Rasul relied on Supreme Court case law that predated Smith and excluded nonresident aliens from the scope of constitutional protections guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Hobby Lobby wholly undermines Rasul by holding that the pre-Smith Supreme Court case law does not restrict the scope of “person[s]” protected by the RFRA, which Congress intended to exceed the scope of constitutional protection as set forth in the pre-Smith case law. Hobby Lobby instructs that the scope of “person[s]” protected by the RFRA is to be determined by reference to the definition of “person” in the Dictionary Act, not by reference to the pre-Smith case law.
... The Guantanamo Bay detainees, as flesh-and-blood human beings, are surely "individuals," and thus they are no less "person[s]" than are the for-profit corporations in Hobby Lobby or the resident noncitizens whom Hobby Lobby gives as an example of persons to whom the RFRA must apply.
A hearing on the emergency motions is scheduled for tomorrow morning.