United States v. Thomas

CR 87-60, 87-64

APR 23 1987


United States of America
            v.                           Cr. No 87-60
Scott M. Galindez

United States of America
            v.                           Cr. No 87-61
Stephen Semple

United States of America
            v.                           Cr. No 87-62      
William Thomas                       
United States of America           
            v.                           Cr. No 87-63       
Phillip Joseph             

United States of America
            v.                           Cr. No 87-64                 
Ellen Thomas            


The defendants in these cases are charged by Information with violating a regulation that prohibits camping in Lafayette Park. On April 9, 1987, the Court set these matters down for a hearing today on all motions and all other pre-trial matters. Defendant William Thomas filed a number of motions, including a motion to dismiss the Information under which he was charged on the grounds that his actions were protected under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. After inquiring of all defendants, the Court found that all defendants joined in that motion.

At today's hearing, defendant Thomas stated that he was acting on the basis of a "sincerely held religious belief."


All defendants, either through counsel or on their own behalf, joined in Mr. Thomas's statement. In response to a specific inquiry, the United States stated that it did not contest the sincerity of defendants' beliefs or that defendants were acting at the time of their arrest pursuant to a "sincerely held religious belief." As a result, the sincerity of the defendants' beliefs was not controverted.

The Court then asked the Government to specify its interest in prosecuting these defendants under the regulation at issue, 36 C.F.R. 7.96(i) and whether it wished to respond to the defendants' motion. The Government stated that it had "no interest in prohibiting any of these defendants from sleeping in the park" add that its only interest in this case was "enforcing the regulations" at issue. The Court asked the Government if it wished to offer anything other reason, any piece of evidence, or wished to cross-examine any of the defendants. The Government declined to do any of these things.

When it has been shown that an individual has acted contrary to law out of a "sincerely held religious belief," it is the Government's responsibility to show that it has a compelling interest in the law at issue and that it has enforced that law with the least restrictive means with respect to that religious belief. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (194~); see also Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707 (1981); L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law §14-10. The Government did not offer a scintilla of evidence to that effect. Nor did it proffer a single reason sufficient in law to support a claim of compelling interest.

Indeed, the Government did not proffer any response to the


defendants' position stated above that even remotely met the applicable legal standard. A mere statement that the Government has an interest in enforcing the regulation at issue is not a showing that the Government has a compelling interest in the regulation or that its means of enforcing the regulation were the least restrictive possible. The Government's response does not rise to the dignity necessary to sustain their burden and does not offer a sufficient legal basis on which to maintain these prosecutions. As a result, this Court has no choice but to dismiss the Informations in these cases and to deem the remaining motions moot in light of the Court's action Accordingly, it is this 23rd day of April, 1987.

ORDERED that the defendants' motions to dismiss these cases on the grounds that defendants' actions were protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment shall be, and hereby is, granted; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the remaining motions submitted by the defendants shall be, and hereby are, dismissed as moot; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the above captioned cases shall be, and hereby are, dismissed.



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