A press release from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm renowned for defending all faiths, today offered to defend for free any individual citizens sued by the Muslim plaintiffs in what has become known as “the case of the flying imams.” “The Flying Imams” lawsuit was announced on March 13 by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The suit was filed by a New York attorney, Mr. Omar T. Mohammedi, on behalf of six Muslim leaders who were taken off a US Airways flight under disputed circumstances in November, 2006.
The lawsuit targets the airline, Minnesota’s Metropolitan Airports Commission, (a government agency) and – significantly – several “John Does.” The complaint makes clear that at least some of these John Does are placeholders for ordinary citizens who are alleged to have reported their concerns about the conduct of the imams to the airlines.
In a stinging open letter to Mr. Awad, Becket Fund president Kevin J. Hasson denounced the targeting of private citizens as far outside the scope of legitimate civil rights test cases.
In its 12 year history the Becket Fund has represented clients from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and other traditions. This is, however, the first time they’ve ever opposed someone’s claim of religious discrimination. The Becket Fund will also promptly seek leave to file a brief in the case urging the trial court to keep secret the identity of the John Does. Hasson said they were driven to such action by the outrageousness of the Flying Imams’ tactics. “We know religious liberty. Religious liberty is a client of ours,” Hasson says in the letter. “And this claim is not about religious liberty.”