Press Release

Media Advisory: Tomorrow Court To Hear Native American Eagle Feather Case Will decide whether Native American feather dancer can be prosecuted for using eagle feathers

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, D.C.  –  Tomorrow, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, located in McAllen, Texas, will hear the case of Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache Tribe, whose sacred eagle feathers were confiscated by the government in a covert operation called “Operation Powwow.” The hearing — and possible same-day decision — will determine whether the federal government can seize eagle feathers from religious Native American dancers and bar them from practicing their faith (see video). 

The hearing comes one month after the federal government returned Mr. Soto’s feathers, seized nine years ago, but under the condition that they could not be used by anyone else in his family or tribe. Mr. Soto is a tribal chief and award-winning feather dancer, yet faced criminal fines and imprisonment for possessing eagle feathers according to his Native American faith. The case featured prominently in the recent national debate over religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas, and it has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and other major media outlets.

Oral Argument in McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Jewell

Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of Becket

Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. CT

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
1701 W. Hwy. 83, Suite 1011
McAllen, TX 78501

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224. 


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”