Thursday, September 19, 2019

Denial of Student Visa For Religious Trainee Is Upheld

In Ashby v. United States Department of State, (MD NC, Sept. 17, 2019), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a suit challenging the State Department's refusal to issue a student visa to Colombian resident Jhonier Herrera, a "friend/ religious partner" of plaintiff Shon Ashby.  Ashby wished "to train and educate ... Herrera in the areas of business [and] religious training." The court rejected plaintiff's argument that visa rules favor other religious institutions such as religiously affiliated colleges. and that they substantially burden his exercise of religion.  The court said in part:
While Ashby might have plausibly alleged a disparate impact in favor of religious institutions, he fails to plausibly allege that any law or regulation is religiously targeted....
While Ashby may have a sincere desire to train Herrera on religious topics, this desire does not itself make Herrera’s presence necessary to Ashby’s religious exercise. Because Plaintiffs lack standing and fail to plausibly allege a substantial burden that prevents or inhibits them from practicing their religion, the RFRA claim will be dismissed.