In the recommendation, Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You relied on a disastrous case affecting the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, where tribes and their citizens oppose the use of reclaimed wastewater on sacred grounds. Essentially, the government is free to do what it wants on its own land, according to the ruling. With respect to the site in Oregon, "plaintiffs have not established that they are being coerced to act contrary to their religious beliefs under the threat of sanctions or that a governmental benefit is being conditioned upon conduct that would violate their religious beliefs," You wrote. The San Francisco Peaks dispute was decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oregon is part of the 9th Circuit so the Mount Hood case would be heard there too. The case is Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration. The elders are represented by Becket, a non-profit law firm that focuses on protecting religious rights.
Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration
According to Becket, the firm has a "100% win-rate" before the U.S. Supreme Court. That record includes the landmark decision in Holt v. Hobbs, which has been cited by Indian inmates to protect their rights, though not always with success. The firm also won Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Zubik v. Burwell, cases which arose when religious groups objected to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby in particular has been seen by commentators as a key development in religious freedom cases but it did not help the elders in the Oregon case. "The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby does not change the analysis here," You wrote in the recommendation on Friday. She said the decision did not change the need to determine whether "government coercion or compulsion" has impacted someone's religious rights. Related Stories:
Carol Logan: Grand Ronde Tribes owed apology for destruction of our sacred site (October 23, 2017)