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Mc Allen Grace Brethren Church v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20194
Nos. No. 13-40326, (5th Cir., 08/20/2014)

The Fifth Circuit held that DOI's ban on owning bald eagle feathers under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). DOI's implementation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits American Indians who are not members of federally recognized tribes from possessing bald and golden eagle feathers. A lower court upheld the ban, holding that DOI's implementation of the Act was narrowly tailored to a compelling governmental interest. But the appellate court reversed, finding that DOI failed to provide sufficient evidence that the policy of limiting permits for the possession of eagle feathers to members of federally recognized tribes survives the scrutiny required by the RFRA. DOI failed to show how allowing religious adherents whose sincerity is not questioned to acquire permits would jeopardize the government's stated interest of protecting eagles and that it is using the "least restrictive means" to further that interest.