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Court Refuses To Order Return of WWII Remains To Supposed Next-of-Kin

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Patterson v. Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency, (WD TX, July 29, 2019), a Texas federal district court refused to order return to plaintiffs of the remains of seven servicemen who were killed or perished as POW’s in the Philippines in World War II.  The court explains:

The parties dispute the extent to which the remains are identified. Plaintiffs argue that they have a property interest in these remains and that Defendants’ retention of these remains impinges on Plaintiffs’ religious practices and Plaintiffs’ interest in securing proper burial.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ due process, 4th Amendment, free exercise and RFRA claims to the remains at issue, saying in part:

They state “the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint show that the Government has placed a substantial burden on the Families’ exercise of religion.”…

The record reveals nothing further about Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or how Defendants have burdened them. Plaintiffs do not indicate the nature, substance, or contours of their beliefs, or even whether all Plaintiffs share the same religious beliefs. In the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that a “proper burial is essential for many practicing Christians,” but they produce no declarations or other evidence outlining these beliefs. Defendants thus contest whether Plaintiffs’ beliefs are sincerely held.

The Court is inclined to grant summary judgment on the sincerity grounds … given Plaintiffs’ total lack of evidence. Courts have cautioned, however, that “[t]hough the sincerity inquiry is important, it must be handled with a light touch….

In keeping with this tradition … the Court assumes Plaintiffs show sincerely held beliefs and concludes alternatively that Plaintiffs do not show a substantial interference with these beliefs. As Defendants note, Plaintiffs allege only that their beliefs require a “proper burial,” but without any explanation of what makes a “proper burial in accordance with each respective family’s religious beliefs,” the Court cannot assess the alleged interference…. Thus, Plaintiffs do not meet their initial burden for either their RFRA or Free Exercise claims.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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