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American Indians challenging eagle feather rules get a boost from ‘Hobby Lobby

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

ABA Journal January 1, 2015

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, believes there’s a “very serious constitutional issue” in this disparity. The fund plans to help defend McAllen.

“There’s a lot of dispute about what the establishment clause means these days, but one thing it clearly means is that the government doesn’t get to give licenses to the Episcopal Church to preach but not to the Baptist Church,” Goodrich says. “That’s basically what’s happening here.”

Though the fund also handled Hobby Lobby, Goodrich doesn’t believe that case was the key inMcAllen. He notes that the 5th Circuit made favorable RFRA rulings before Hobby Lobby on issues such as animal sacrifices in Santeria and Sikhs carrying knives to work.

Similarly, Goodrich believes the existence of secular exceptions to the acts covering eagles and birds—for scientists, power plants and farmers—could be fatal to the government in McAllen. Indeed, the Interior Department recently allowed wind farms to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles accidentally.

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