SCOTUS Opinion: Religious Freedom Act Permits Claimants To Seek Monetary Damages Against Federal Agents Personally


The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 permits people to seek “appropriate relief” when their religious exercise has been unlawfully burdened by the federal government. In Tanzin v. Tanvir, three practicing Muslims sued certain FBI agents who placed them on the No Fly List after they refused to act as informants against their religious communities, seeking monetary damages under the Act. The district court held that the Act did not permit monetary claims, but the Second Circuit reversed.

The Court, in an 8-0 (Justice Barrett recused) decision by Justice Thomas, affirmed. First, the majority held that the Act’s language enabling relief “against a government” allowed suits against individual federal agents in their personal capacities, as opposed to their official capacity only, because it defined “government” as including any “official (or other person acting under color of law) of the United States.” Second, the majority determined that “appropriate relief” included monetary damages just like civil rights claims and noted that some violations of the Act might only be remedied through money payment.

A link to the opinion is here: