U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers routinely single out Muslim American travelers for questioning regarding their religious beliefs, practices, and associations during security screenings. Three Muslim American travelers challenged this practice after being asked invasive questions such as “How many times a day do you pray?” and “Do you attend mosque?” The plaintiffs argued, among other things, that this discriminatory religious questioning violated their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
The United States District Court for the Central District of California rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and dismissed the case, concluding that the plaintiffs failed to allege a sufficient burden on their religious exercise. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On February 2, 2024, Americans United, along with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Interfaith Alliance, National Conference of Jewish Women, and Unitarian Universalist Association, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ free-exercise challenge. We looked to the history of the First Amendment to explain that the government’s conduct is fundamentally incompatible with the free exercise of religion because it violates two core principles of religious liberty—religious equality and privacy.