Wednesday, May 06, 2015

6th Circuit Rejects Free Exercise Claim By Christian Militia Member Over Seizure of Bibles

In Meeks v. Larsen, (6th Cir., May 5, 2015), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the civil rights complaints brought by a Michigan militia group against federal law enforcement officials.  Plaintiffs claimed that search warrants and the resulting searches violated their 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Amendment rights. As reported by WLS-TV News:
The Hutaree Militia formed in 2006, preparing for the apocalyptic end of time with commando exercises and live ammunition training....
For years the Hutaree Christian Warriors enjoyed playing war games in the woods of Northwest Indiana and Southern Michigan. But in 2010, federal authorities said the Hutaree Games had given way to a violent plot aimed at killing police and overthrowing the government.
Nine militia members were arrested, but the charges ended up being dismissed, and some members sued federal authorities for violating their rights.
Among the claims unsuccessfully asserted by the Hutaree was that the free exercise rights of one of their members were infringed by the seizure of copies of the Bible during the search.  The 6th Circuit held that it is questionable whether a cause of action for damages for violation of the Free Exercise Clause exists, but even if it does, plaintiff had not plead violation of a clearly-established right sufficient to overcome defendants' qualified immunity, nor had plaintiff plead that the seizure placed a substantial burden on his practice of religion.