Saturday, June 03, 2017

Ban On Supreme Court Plaza Demonstrations Does Not Violate RFRA

In Payden-Travers v. Talkin, (D DC, May 31, 2017), the D.C. federal district court dismissed plaintiffs' claim that the statute and court rule that prohibit demonstrations on the Plaza in front of the Supreme Court violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They contended that their faith requires them to speak out against war, torture and the death penalty, and that merely demonstrating on the sidewalk adjacent to the Court would not make clear to passers-by that their objections were connected to the Court.  The district court held, however, that the ban does not rise to the level of a "substantial burden" as required by RFRA, saying in part:
Plaintiffs do not allege in their complaint that their religions require them to demonstrate and pray in ways such that the public will associate their activities with the United States Supreme Court. It simply alleges that their religions require them to “speak out” and “distance themselves” from certain practices.... [T]here are still countless other means by which Plaintiffs could satisfy this religious obligation, many of which may have nothing to do with the Supreme Court at all. Section 6135 and Regulation 7 prohibit only one. Accordingly, although section 6135 and Regulation 7 prevent Plaintiffs from engaging in religiously motivated conduct at a particular location, the Court concludes that they do not “substantially burden” Plaintiffs’ religious exercise. reports on the decision.