Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees cite Hobby Lobby ruling in motion for communal prayers
Attorneys representing two detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have filed motions, citing the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, asking a U.S. court to allow their clients to take part in communal prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, according to Al Jazeera English.
According to the attorneys, the detainees’ rights are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cited by the Supreme Court in its recent decision.
The motions were filed on behalf of Emad Hassan of Yemen and Ahmed Rabbani of Pakistan, stating prison officials “prevent them from praying communally during Ramadan.”
During Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset and are expected to perform extra prayers, called tarawih, “in which [Muslims] recite one-thirtieth of the Quran in consecutive segments throughout the month.”
Prison authorities currently ban the practice.
Noting that the courts have previously stated that detainees do not possess “religious free exercise rights” because they are not “persons within the scope of the RFRA,” the attorneys state that the Hobby Lobby ruling compels authorities to adapt their policies in the name of religious freedom.
“Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons – human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien – enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the RFRA,” the filing states.
“Why are the authorities at Guantanamo Bay seeking to punish detainees for hunger striking by curtailing their right to pray? If, under our law, Hobby Lobby is a ‘person’ with a right to religious freedom, surely Gitmo detainees are people too,” said Cori Crider, an attorney for the detainees.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, told Al Jazeera the “Defense Department is aware of the filing,” and that the “government will respond through the legal system.”
Caggins added, “We are committed to religious freedoms and practices for the detainees, keeping in mind the overall goal of security and safety for detainees and staff.”
The Hobby Lobby decision, once described as ‘narrow,’ is already being used by various religious groups seeking changes to laws and religious exemptions from federal laws.